Peretz source says he won't try to oust Barak

The two exchange barbs, with Peretz calling Barak "disconnected from reality;" Barak: You're pathetic.

peretz barak labor laugh (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz barak labor laugh
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz will not try to force the party to hold another leadership race to challenge Defense Minister Ehud Barak ahead of the next general election, a source close to Peretz said Monday. Peretz will host a mass rally at Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters on Tuesday to flex his political muscles. He is expected to use the event to bash Barak, as he did to his face in a four-hour meeting of the Labor faction Monday night. Barak opened the meeting by stressing the need for Labor to be ready for the next general election. He spoke about convincing undecided voters and providing observers for polling stations, angering Peretz. "You are disconnected from reality," Peretz told him. "You have an obsession with being prime minister, but you have no agenda for the party to go to elections with. What's your agenda on economic issues? What's your agenda on social issues? What's your agenda on diplomatic issues?" Barak responded by telling Peretz: "I can't compete with how pathetic you are. I am determined to run this party and I will do this with or without you." At the end of the meeting the faction unanimously decided on a series of measures, including seeking a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, initiating the removal of illegal outposts, advancing the evacuation-compensation bill and raising the minimum wage. "Labor's serving in the government depends on these issues," the faction decided, setting its red lines. MK Ophir Paz-Pines said the conditions would send a message to Olmert that the party was not in his pocket. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer bashed the press for taping him unwittingly. The meeting was called to address Kadima's violations of its coalition agreements with Labor. It was held after a day in which Labor MKs reacted to reports about Ben-Eliezer's criticism of Barak and Barak telling bereaved families that he believed the next elections would be held sooner than expected. Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog complained about a "self-destructive gene" in Labor that made its politicians attack its party chairman.Paz-Pines left open the option that if Labor continued to act in a way that he considered self-destructive, he could accept an offer to chair the Green Party. Barak himself downplayed the reports, calling them "a barrage of words" that would not cause him any harm. Barak and Ben-Eliezer publicly embraced at a bar mitzva they both attended, sending a message that there were no hard feelings between the two. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced pressure in Kadima from Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who told him that he should initiate an election instead of giving in to Shas's demands. Speaking at a Kadima faction meeting, Sheetrit slammed Shas MKs, whose votes in a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee meeting prevented him from passing his plan to decrease the number of members of city councils. He compared Shas's insubordination with Olmert's willingness to help the party's pet causes. "Shas is extorting the government and we keep on surrendering to them," Sheetrit said. "They think they can threaten us, but we shouldn't be afraid to go to elections. I think we should go to elections now." Olmert, who was sitting next to the shouting Sheetrit, asked him to tone down his voice and did not respond to Sheetrit's complaints. Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Cohen of Shas responded that "Shas does not extort the government" and that if Sheetrit had a problem with the party's success, he could quit.