Labor headed to Opposition

Senior party officials: Labor must save its on future rather than try to save Kadima.

barak following elections 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
barak following elections 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Less than 24 hours after Labor Chairman Ehud Barak gave a vague speech on the party's intention to join a coalition government following its disappointing showing in the elections, Labor MKs and ministers made it clear they thought the party should head to the Opposition. Senior party officials said on Wednesday that Labor could no longer hope to play a significant role in forming the next government, and that it had better focus on its own future rather than try to save Kadima. The party won only 13 mandates in Tuesday's general election, down from 19 in the outgoing Knesset. "Livni won the battle but lost the war," one of the officials said. "She drew votes [away] from both Meretz and Labor, but couldn't create a bloc by appealing to the right-wing voters." On Wednesday, Barak held talks with the party's lawmakers, and most of them, including MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Ophir Paz-Pines and Eitan Cabel, and Education Minister Yuli Tamir and National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, informed him that they won't support joining a coalition. "The election results clearly reflect the will of the public, among whom the Labor party needs to regain its standing," Ben-Eliezer said. "Such a struggle can be conducted only from the Opposition, along with turning Labor into a strong alternative with a clear social and economical agenda," he said. Though it wasn't clear what Barak's and Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog's personal feelings on the matter were, The Jerusalem Post has learned that they are going along with the wishes of their party. "We look at the results with open eyes, and they compel us to rehabilitate the party," Herzog said. "The only way back to leading the country is via the Opposition, where the party will one again consolidate its values and gain back the public's trust." The breakdown of the voting results shows that 31 percent of kibbutz members abandoned Labor, their traditional party, to vote for Kadima so it didn't lose to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Labor MK Orit Noked, who won the 14th slot on Labor's Knesset list reserved for a representative of the kibbutzim, said she was not disappointed. "I think what happened in the kibbutzim happened in all sectors. The left-wing bloc was deceived by Livni's campaign managers, who in the final days of the campaign pushed the message that it was either Livni or Bibi [Netanyahu] - many people saw it as a personal appeal to try to stop Bibi," Noked said. "I am not disappointed in the kibbutz members, and I can say that I understand them - they don't live in a vacuum and the erosion got to them, too." As Labor only won 13 seats, Noked will most likely lose hers - her only hope now is that the party will get another mandate following implementation of the surplus vote-sharing agreement Labor signed with Meretz ahead of the election. "It is an uncomfortable situation, because if one of the two parties gets another mandate, it comes down to either me or [Meretz MK] Zehava Gal-On, and it makes me feel uncomfortable, because I love and appreciate Zehava," Noked added. Finally, people are beginning to speak of a party primary, albeit quietly. According to Labor party regulations, in case of a failure in general elections, a primary must be held within 14 months. While there are three likely candidates to replace Barak as party leader - Herzog, Paz-Pines and Avishay Braverman - none of them would be likely to admit to such an ambition at this point.