Labor MKs pressure Barak to rule out serving alongside Lieberman

Tamir: We're losing mandates.

Barak 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
While most Labor MKs and ministers have declared they will not serve in a government with Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, party leader Ehud Barak has not. On Thursday, prominent Labor candidates for the next Knesset expressed anger that Barak would not make this point clear. Education Minister Yuli Tamir, No. 9 on the Labor list, told Barak at the faction's meeting in Tel Aviv that his refusal to rule out joining a coalition with Israel Beiteinu was costing Labor votes. "Lieberman's pronouncements [about Arab Israelis] are immoral, unethical, inappropriate, and because of your readiness to sit with him, we are losing mandates," Tamir said. MK Nadia Hilou, an unrealistic No. 30 on the list, slammed the party for staying silent amid Lieberman's attacks on Israeli Arabs. "We have been waving our social-democratic flag for the past three years, and now we keep quiet," she said. Hilou, a Christian Arab from Jaffa, accused campaign spokeswoman MK Shelly Yacimovich of failing to attack Lieberman openly on Labor's behalf. "Why don't you speak against him in the media?" Hilou asked her. "Our stance should be clear and said in a harsh way." Yacimovich did put out statements in the past week slamming Lieberman as racist and calling on other parties to declare ahead of Tuesday's elections that they will not join him in government. On Wednesday, she released a statement saying that Labor "will not sit in any coalition with Lieberman, who is the Siamese twin of Meir Kahane [whose Kach party was declared racist and banned from the Knesset in 1986]. If there are a few in the Labor Party who play with that idea, the majority will put them in their place." In the past week, most of Labor's leading MKs have said off the record that they would not serve with Lieberman in the government, but they refused to release a statement to that effect out of concern that it would hurt the party and its chairman. Barak said it was not likely that his party would join such a government. But he said he would not rule out joining any Center-Left government as long as it accepted Labor's fundamental ideas. Meanwhile, Hassib Abbud, an Arab Labor activist from Shfaram in the western Galilee, expressed disappointment with Labor's approach. While he believed in coexistence, and that Arab candidates were better off running with Jewish candidates than in separate Arab parties, he felt Labor was about to lose many Arab voters because of the recent IDF offensive against Hamas. "The military operation in Gaza and its awful results led many people to decide that they won't vote for Labor again. I can't even go and try to convince them to vote for Labor, because they are furious about the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza and there is no chance they will support a Zionist party this time," Abbud said. Asked about Labor MKs' opposition to serving with it, Israel Beiteinu said it "does not comment on such matters."