Barak to run campaign on Second Lebanon War failures

Barak will try to capitalize on the fact that although Labor was in the coalition during the war, he himself was abroad for most of it and not implicated in its failures.

Ehud Barak smug as hell 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ehud Barak smug as hell 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak will try to make the failures of the Kadima-led government during the Second Lebanon War the main issue of his campaign in the next general election, sources close to him said Monday. Barak will try to take advantage of the fact that although Labor was in the coalition during the war, he himself was abroad for most of the war and not implicated in its failures. Barak's associates said he intended to use such a strategy no matter who won the September 17 Kadima Party primary. "There will be public debate on the Second Lebanon War and its results, on the way the war ended, on UN Resolution and its impact on the country," Barak said at a meeting of the Labor faction at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters. "The time for such integral public debate will come soon." Channel 1 reported Monday night that Olmert considered firing Barak in recent days due to the Labor leader's harsh criticism of the prime minister's policies. Barak attacked Kadima for allowing the 2009 state budget to become enveloped in the race between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who supports passing it before the primary, and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who believes the budget's passage should wait until the race is over and it is clear whether a new government could be formed. "It is too bad that the government debate over the budget has been dragged into the political machinations inside Kadima," Barak told the faction. "The budget should not be brought down to the level of petty political fighting." Barak reiterated his opposition to cutting the defense budget. Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel endorsed Mofaz's view that the cabinet's vote on the budget, which is set for next Sunday, should be delayed. The faction later voted to oppose the budget on Sunday. "It's forbidden to vote on Sunday, because after the election in Kadima, either there will be a new government or an election, and if there is an election, the debate on the budget will be part of our campaign." A Dahaf Institute poll broadcast on Channel 2 Monday night found that if the Kadima primary were held now, Livni would win with 42 percent of the vote, followed by Mofaz, with 31%. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit would both receive 11%. In a head-to-head race, Livni would defeat Mofaz 50 to 40%. Asked who they preferred to deal with a national emergency in the middle of the night, Kadima members said they preferred Mofaz over Livni by a small margin (34-31%). Workers at the Egged bus station in Beersheba filed a complaint with police alleging that the manager of the bus station and other staff members tried to pressure them to join Kadima. They said they were threatened with punishments if they did not join the party and told that Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz would grant them benefits if they became party members. "We didn't agree to join the party, because we do not agree with the party's ideology," one of the staff members told Army Radio. "Since then, the have harmed our income and fined us for things we didn't do." Both Egged and Mofaz's campaign denied the story. An Egged spokesman said there was a long-running dispute between the workers and administration at the Beersheba bus station. Dichter's lawyer Boaz Ben-Tzur wrote a letter to Kadima elections committee chairman Dan Arbel on Monday, asking him to insist on the removal from the Kadima membership rolls of people who are also members of the Likud. A source close to Dichter said the incident in Beersheba and others like it were caused by Likud members in Kadima. Likud officials said the reason that they have not cooperated with Kadima's request to check their membership rolls was that Kadima had not been willing to do the same during last year's Likud leadership race. The Likud officials alleged that many Kadima members joined the Likud and voted for candidate Moshe Feiglin in order to improve Feiglin's showing and embarrass Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu.