Peretz warns Barak will destroy Labor

MKs deny they'll follow Sneh out of party.

Peretz 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peretz 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The departure of MK Ephraim Sneh is just the tip of the iceberg for a Labor Party plagued by self-destructive leadership, former Labor chairman Amir Peretz told the Labor faction at the Knesset Monday in a blistering criticism of his successor, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Peretz blamed Barak for pushing Sneh out the door by firing him unceremoniously from his job as deputy defense minister and then refusing to meet with him for months. Barak found time to meet with Sneh on Monday night when it was too late. "Magnanimity is required to maintain a dialogue with people who are not among your supporters," Peretz told Barak at the meeting. "The party needs this quality but currently lacks it. I established and maintained a working relationship with people who did not support me but you haven't. With you, there is not even the minimum dialogue necessary, not in the faction and not in the party's institutions." Peretz reiterated Sneh's criticism that Barak had allowed Kadima to take away Labor's top priorities. He accused Barak of running the party together with the ministers closest to him, while ignoring the rest of the faction. "The state is making fateful decisions on many issues, but Labor has not initiated any of them and is not a partner in setting the national agenda on either diplomatic or socioeconomic issues," Peretz said. "The chairman is leading the party in a clique-ish manner that will destroy the party. I am trying to prevent our self-destruction, because I worked hard to bring us our 19 mandates." Barak declined to respond to Peretz, but his close ally, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, said Sneh told him he had already considered leaving Labor during the Second Lebanon War when Peretz was still party chairman. Before Peretz spoke, Barak stressed the need for party unity. "Sneh's decision is unfortunate," Barak said. "But I am convinced that Labor will recover from his departure and lead the country and the party forward together on the right path." A source close to Barak went further, saying that Labor had survived many more significant departures since the founding of the state, including the likes of David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Yossi Sarid. Peretz and MKs Yoram Marciano and Ophir Paz-Pines all vowed to stay with Labor despite their problems with Barak and the offers they had received to run for the next Knesset with other parties. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer admitted he had considered retiring but decided against it due to his desire to help the party. Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon called upon whomever still intended to quit Labor to "stand up and leave now," because the party cannot overcome the challenges ahead amid fears of more desertions. "It is wrong to leave a sinking ship in the middle of the sea," said Ayalon, a former Naval commander. "We need to learn the lessons of Sneh's departure and hold the ideological forums that he demanded, so we and everyone else will know what we stand for."