Branch secretaries meet in Netivot to express desire that replacement for Barak at party's helm be found sooner.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak must agree to advance the next leadership race in the party in order to prevent it from disappearing from the political map, Labor branch secretaries demanded Wednesday night at an emergency meeting in Netivot.The next Labor leadership race is set for October 2012, a year ahead of the set date for the next general election, but leadership candidates Avishay Braverman and Isaac Herzog have pushed for it to be moved up to 2011.RELATED:Barak mocks challengers for Labor Party leadershipOpinion: A new way for LaborThe branch secretaries joined their call at the meeting, saying that the race should be held as soon as possible.“We have to take the reins of this party, because we are the ones who truly care about it,” said Yosef Shriki, the secretary of the Netivot branch, which hosted the meeting. “We are the army at the front lines of the political battle. We bring out the voters, not the MKs or the ministers, and we will do everything possible to maintain the party that built the state,” Shriki said.Shriki was considered one of Barak’s top field activists for many years, but he lost faith in Barak after he closed down branches across the country and then appointed a triumvirate of highly paid executives to run the party out of Beit Berl Teachers College in Kfar Saba. He objected to Barak’s decisions to elect Hilik Bar party secretary-general, to appoint his political adviser Oshi Almaliah as Labor’s new director-general, and to shift former director-general Weizmann Shiri to head the foundation that administers the real estate the party owns.“I committed suicide for Barak over and over again – and I don’t regret it – but when I saw the way he was running the party, I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Shriki said. “I didn’t mind that they closed my branch and buried the party at Beit Berl, but when it came to the appointments, I said that’s it, that’s enough.”Shriki suggested Barak relinquish the leadership of the party to Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer so he could concentrate on running the Defense Ministry.Labor officials loyal to Barak downplayed the event.Advertisement“This was not a real rally, and no one takes them seriously,” a high-ranking source in the party said.