Labor attorney files petition to oust Barak

Party's legal institutions urged to call primary; Cabel: Netanyahu didn't convince me to back unity gov't.

barak following elections 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
barak following elections 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A day after Labor leader Ehud Barak confirmed that he was considering taking the party into a Likud-led government, attorney Dekel David-Ozer submitted a petition to the party's legal institutions on Thursday, calling for Barak's dismissal and a primary to replace him within ninety days. Meanwhile, Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel met Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, but said the Likud head did not manage to convince him to back Labor joining the coalition. Netanyahu repeated his insistence that the country required a national unity government. An argument among Labor MKs over whether the party should join a coalition headed by Netanyahu may be decided on a technicality, as the party's bylaws may not permit the Labor Central Committee from convening before the new government is sworn in. On Thursday morning, Labor's legal adviser, Yoram Avrahami, insisted it would take a minimum of three weeks to call a convention to discuss the possibility of joining the coalition. "We will not allow anyone to trample the party's constitution and we will maintain [the] set procedure of convening the convention, which takes three weeks," Avrahami said. "Netanyahu's timetable is irrelevant." Avrahami is a staunch supporter of Cabel, who vehemently opposes joining the new government. Barak, however, dismissed the legalities, saying that the needs of the state must supersede those of the party. "The party's institutions will meet very soon," he said during a noon-time interview with Israel Radio. "No legal shenanigans or procedural shtick will prevent Labor members from convening." "First the state, then Labor and, in the end, us," he said, adding that not joining the coalition would be a disservice to those who voted for the party. "Between a narrow, right-wing government and one which represents the Left, [it is definitely] more preferable for the public [that Labor join the coalition]," Barak said. The Labor chairman dismissed accusations that he was fighting for the broad coalition just as a means of remaining defense minister. "I don't accept the opinion that we are looking for portfolios," he said. "We are all obligated, we are representatives of Labor." Barak pointed to the economic crisis and the security situation as reasons for the necessity of a broader coalition. "A party is a means, not a end. It must answer the real issues," he said. Speaking shortly before Barak on the same radio program, senior Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich expressed her strong opposition to joining the coalition, dismissing the possibility that the party needed to help ease the unemployment crisis from inside the government. "I think that [Labor] sitting in a government with Netanyahu, Shas and Israel Beiteinu would not influence the current situation," she said. "We can achieve things with Netanyahu without being dragged into his government." She vigorously rejected the possibility that opting to stay out of the government would be ignoring the will of those who voted for Labor in order to see Barak as defense minister. "I am very sorry, but Labor is not a school for the appointment of ministers," Yacimovich said, adding that the party had had many historical achievements in its past. "I truly see this struggle [of whether to join the government or the opposition] as the struggle for Labor," she said.