Labor forum forces Barak to talk

Sneh, who was fired by Barak, wants answers before Annapolis; says "failure will bring catastrophe."

sneh aj 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sneh aj 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will give a major diplomatic address at Sunday's Labor central committee meeting, after his opponents in the party forced the committee to convene so Barak would have to break his silence. Labor MK Ephraim Sneh, whom Barak fired from his post as deputy defense minister, drafted 260 signatures from central committee members to force Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel to call the meeting. Cabel said he would have convened the committee even without the signatures. Sneh said his efforts had nothing to do with his dismissal and everything to do with Labor making its voice clear on diplomatic issues. "I don't want to beat or embarrass Barak," Sneh said. "I want to agree with him. The party's views on diplomatic issues are unclear, and as of Sunday, they will be clear." Sneh said he hoped the committee would pass a proposal reiterating support for negotiations with the Palestinians, endorsing the Annapolis summit and calling for the government to adopt Labor's diplomatic plan, which is based on Camp David. "Annapolis is an historic opportunity, and failure there would bring about an unimaginable catastrophe," Sneh said. "Labor cannot remain in a government that does not advance peace. If [Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman can make threats, so can we." Sources close to Barak said he would try to reach an agreement with Sneh ahead of the meeting on a compromise resolution that could be approved unanimously. The only camp in the party that would oppose such a maneuver is that of former Labor chairman Amir Peretz, who has attacked Barak fiercely in recent weeks. On Wednesday night, Peretz asked Labor's court of appeals to cancel Sunday's meeting, arguing that the current central committee's term had ended and any decision it would make on Sunday would have no standing. The court had not made its decision by press time. Barak and Cabel appointed Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon on Wednesday to head Labor's campaign ahead of next November's municipal elections. Supporters of National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had proposed that he head the campaign in return for a reserved slot as Barak's No. 2 on Labor's next Knesset list, but the idea was dropped due to overwhelming opposition.