Barak takes credit for W. Bank freeze

Barak takes credit for I

barak cabinet 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
barak cabinet 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor chairman Ehud Barak claimed credit for last week's security cabinet decision to freeze West Bank construction in a speech to Labor's executive committee at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Sunday, and called for his party's rebel MKs to see the error in their ways. Barak boasted that such a freeze never took place in the ostensibly left-wing governments of former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert. He also claimed credit for economic reforms and the decision not to split the functions of the attorney-general. "Everyone should close their eyes and ask themselves who would be in the government without us," Barak said. "[National Union MKs Ya'acov] Katz, Uri Ariel and [Michael] Ben-Ari. Would a narrow right-wing government have frozen settlements and could it have begun a diplomatic process?" Barak said there were also reasons for joining the government based on security issues he could not elaborate on, apparently referring to Iran. "Leadership requires patience and an ability to distinguish between what matters and what doesn't," Barak said. "I can't talk about everything going on right now, but it is enough to tell the people who complained that we have done the right thing. History will judge us on this." Ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Shalom Simhon backed up Barak. Ben-Eliezer said he was convinced that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted to advance a process with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. "It pains me that not all the MKs are here," Ben-Eliezer said. "It bothers me that they exclude themselves from the party's decisions. There's a feeling that they think they have everything coming to them. I think majority rules. You can't accomplish anything by shouting from the opposition." Simhon mocked the rebels, saying that "some have even forgotten why they are rebelling." He complained that it has become easier to get a meeting with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas than rebel MK Ophir Paz-Pines. Barak received good news when Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon announced that at this point, he did not intend to give the four rebel MKs the fifth voted they needed to legally split the party. He told the crowd that he had never left Labor and that after the announcement of the settlement freeze an effort must be made to reunite the party. "I am very happy about the cabinet decision, which is a step in the right direction," Ben-Simon told Israel Radio. "I will still make a decision within three months. Now I say not to leave, because the freeze is an extraordinary accomplishment. If it continues in this direction, I will call upon my colleagues to return to the Labor Party and try to work from within to change the situation." The Labor rebels said in response that they had not changed their minds and they had no interest in returning to the party. "If everything is so good for them, what do they want from me now?" rebel MK Eitan Cabel said. A woman from Kibbutz Almog in the Jordan Valley complained to Barak during the meeting about the freeze. She invited Barak to her kibbutz to see the impact of the freeze on his constituency.