Labor MKs concerned party has lost its way

Say Ehud Barak's leadership style could cause lasting damage to the party.

Barak intense 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Barak intense 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak's leadership style could cause lasting damage to the party, Labor MKs said Sunday. Labor Party members have grown increasingly concerned by Barak's recent decisions, which include firing one of his closest advisers, Eldad Yaniv. Many have stated that the party has lost its way at a time when the Labor Party's left-wing peace bloc should be making the headlines. "We used to be the party of the peace movement. Now it seems that no one in the public, let alone the Labor Party, knows what we really stand for," said one Labor MK. "It has always been hard to get close to Barak, but now it seems that no one understands him, has any influence on him, or knows what he will do next." Speaking behind closed doors for fear of upsetting the party chairman, Labor MKs are becoming increasingly concerned over their party's chances in the next elections. Ehud Barak's election as party chairman was supposed to reunite a fragmented Labor Party which fared badly under the leadership of MK Amir Peretz. While Peretz campaigned for a "new Labor Party" that would herald the "socioeconomic revolution," Barak was a member of the old Labor guard that many hoped would return the party to its traditional party base. Barak, however, failed to come out as a strong persona at the Annapolis peace summit last month, said party MKs. "This was a perfect opportunity for us to step up and take our place at the front of the peace train," said one senior party member. "Instead, [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and the Kadima Party are becoming the peace camp party." Several Labor MKs, including Ophir Paz-Pines and Amir Peretz, accused Barak of being "more right-wing" than opposition chairman and Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. "The Labor Party no longer stands [for what] it used to," said Paz-Pines, who added that despite the urging of many Labor MKs, Barak refused to take a strong left-wing stance ahead of the Annapolis summit. Many Mks said that they could not understand Barak's decision to fall into the backdrop of Annapolis, even as he weighed adding members of the left-wing Meretz Party to the Labor Party roster. Before his dismissal, Yaniv had reportedly met with Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On to discuss the possibility of her joining the Labor Party. Yaniv was spearheading the move to add more left-wing lawmakers to the party and redefine its center-left stance ahead of the next elections, said Labor MKs. "Now that he is gone, we are not sure who is speaking into Barak's ear. Is he still going to steer the party to the left? Or does Yaniv's dismissal mean that he is heading back towards the middle?" asked one Labor MK. Both Barak and Yaniv declined to answer those questions - a silence that many Labor MKs are finding worrisome, as leaders of the Kadima Party begin planning for the upcoming peace talks with Palestinian leadership without the help or presence of the Labor Party.