Labor party torn over joining coalition

Likud's offer includes five ministerial portfolios; MKs may split party if Barak opts to join government.

barak cabel 224 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
barak cabel 224 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor chairman Ehud Barak's proposal to join a Likud-Israel Beiteinu government has the party divided over its future. On Friday, Shas chairman Eli Yishai, whose party is already tied in agreements with Likud to serve in the next coalition, spoke on the phone with Labor secretary general Eitan Cabel, No. 7 on party's list, and detailed to him the importance of Labor joining Binyamin Netanyahu's fledgling coalition. Cabel is one of the fiercest objectors to Labor chairman Ehud Barak's efforts to join Netanyahu in a unity government. Labor's Central Committee will decide next Tuesday whether to accept the offer of Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, which includes five ministerial portfolios, two deputy ministers and one chairmanship of a Knesset committee. The vote among the committee's 1,460 members will determine the party's future as well as that of its current chairman, Barak. According to internal estimates, some 600 committee members oppose joining the government, while fewer than 500 members support the initiative. About 400 members remain undecided. "It will be a tight race," a member of the committee said Thursday. "It will be an emotional race and no one can tell what the results will be." MKs who oppose Barak's proposal - Labor secretary-general Cabel, Ophir Paz-Pines, Shelly Yacimovich, Amir Peretz, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and newly elected MK Daniel Ben-Simon - convened on Thursday night in an attempt to prepare for next week's party committee meeting. MKs supporting Barak are Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i and Orit Noked. Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog has not stated publicly which camp he supports, though it is assumed that he will also support Barak. It is not clear yet which side MK Avishay Braverman will take. In addition, Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini gave Barak his public support for the first time on Thursday and said that joining the government at these difficult times was the responsible thing to do. If Barak's initiative to join Netanyahu's government is accepted, the objecting MKs are expected to split the party. If Barak's initiative fails, though, he is expected to be ousted and a new race for the chairmanship launched.