Labor to vote on inquiry commission

Yatom collects required signitures; vote set for Friday's Labor Faction meeting.

amir peretz 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
amir peretz 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor MK Danny Yatom has collected the seven signatures of Labor Faction members required to conduct a vote on the establishment of a governmental inquiry commission into the shortcomings of the war in Lebanon, Israel Radio reported on Thursday. The vote is set for the end of the Labor Faction meeting scheduled for Friday morning. MK Yoram Marciano also submitted a request for vote on the inquiry commission and at at least 14 Labor Faction MKs support its establishment. Late Wednesday, Labor MK Ami Ayalon announced that he had formed a political alliance with MK Avishai Braverman that would run for the leadership of the Labor party. "We will decide on the mechanism that would determine who would be number one and who would be number two. We represent different politics and we will bring the change to the Labor party," Ayalon declared. Yatom and Matan Vilna'i are also vying to replace party leader Amir Peretz, and during a meeting Wednesday, each brought election strategists to discuss how they would run a campaign against the chairman. Those strategists include some of Israel's top campaign managers, such as Ronen Tzur and Motti Morel, who formerly ran Peretz's campaign. Preliminary discussions of their campaign strategy appear to point to platforms almost identical to the socioeconomic mainstays of Labor's past election. "We hope to bring the socioeconomic revolution that we promised our voters in the past election," said Ayalon. Meanwhile, Minister Ophir Paz-Pines said Wednesday that a Labor Faction meeting scheduled for Friday morning could "make or break" the party, depending on how Peretz cast his vote. On hand will be two key issues: the party's support for the two commissions of inquiry announced by the prime minister, and their stance regarding the 2007 budget. Both of those issues will be raised in a cabinet meeting Sunday and the Labor ministers must resolve their party's position on those issues before they enter that meeting. Peretz, who has been slammed for "abandoning the socioeconomic Labor platform" upon his appointment as defense minister, has remained on the fence about the commissions of inquiry. He emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday still undecided, said aides close to Peretz. "He is still weighing his options and deciding on how to proceed," said an aide to Peretz. "The factors he has to consider are complex... But he has announced that he himself has no fear of a state commission." Paz-Pines and MK Eitan Cabel have already announced they will vote against Olmert's inquiry commissions. The two ministers also said they would try to convince the other Labor ministers to vote against the commissions. Cabel has been a close ally to Peretz and used his position as Labor Party secretary- general to rally support within the party's central committee. "In the Labor Party as a whole there appears to be a clear majority against the commissions. We, the ministers, should represent that at the cabinet...If Peretz knows 80% of Labor members oppose, how can he go in there and vote with?" said Paz-Pines. "Only a state commission will be acceptable to us...and the chairman must take care not to lose the party over this issue." Opposition to Olmert's plan for two commissions of inquiry has steadily swelled in the Knesset since the prime minister first announced the plan Monday night. Most MKs have slammed his decision to forego a state commission of inquiry, which would have the power to undertake a full investigation and dismiss top officials if it deemed necessary While the majority of the opposition MKs came out immediately against the plan, MKs in the coaltion have been slower to voice there position on the commission. Labor MKs Danny Yatom, Matan Vilna'i, Braverman, and Ayalon have lambasted the plan and tried to convince their fellow Labor MKs to do the same. "Everyone is truly waiting to hear what the Labor chairman, Amir Peretz, will say about the commission," said a senior party official. "The other Labor Ministers will all follow his lead in the cabinet vote on Sunday...and his future within the Labor Party might be determined by his actions between now and Sunday." Peretz has found himself "between a rock and a hard place," said a source close to the defense minister. "If he votes against the commission, he has broken with Olmert and that may erase the Labor Party's slot in the coaltion," said the source. "If he votes with Olmert, he may lose his popular support in the party. The issue of the 2007 budget, which the cabinet will begin to discuss during the Sunday cabinet meeting, is of special importance to the Labor rebels. "The vote of the 2007 budget will be dramatic," promised Paz-Pines. "We'll see if the party can return to a socioeconomic agenda or if it will fail and then...well, you can guess what will happen." On Wednesday, the Finance Committee managed to pass cuts to the 2006 budget only after three Labor MKs were replaced in the committee by other Labor MKs who promised to support the coalition line in the vote. Labor MKs also voiced outrage at the results of the poverty report, with MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Nadia Hilu leading the complaints. "There are serious, serious problems with our country's economy if we find ourselves in this state," said Hilu. "The government has to increase the social budgets, act immediately to aid the populations in need, and bring about socioeconomic relief to all the country's residents." Both the poverty report and the cuts in the 2006 budget were reenergizing Labor members to take up the socioeconomic revolution, said Paz-Pines. Meanwhile, MK Yoram Marciano suggested that the party should quit the coalition unless it received the Social Affairs Ministry. He said that only by aquiring that portfolio could Labor begin to regain the trust of the voters who had elected the party based on its election promises.