PM to focus on not losing Labor

As Barak is pressed to quit gov't, Olmert knows that if Labor quits, the coalition will collapse.

winograd promo 224 (photo credit: )
winograd promo 224
(photo credit: )
Following Wednesday's publication of the Winograd Report, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will focus on persuading Labor chairman Ehud Barak to break his promise to remove Labor from the coalition, Olmert's associates said Tuesday. When he was running for party leader last year, Barak twice promised that as soon as the report came out, Labor would "end its partnership with Olmert and work to establish a new government with the current Knesset, or alternatively, to set a date for elections." Sources close to Olmert said the prime minister would issue a written statement following the report's publication in which he would call upon Barak to remain in the government out of national responsibility. Olmert's political allies would reiterate that point in media appearances Wednesday night, they said. The Final Winograd Report: All the latest news and analyses Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who is close to Olmert, praised Defense Minister Barak at a Kadima rally in Tiberias Tuesday night, saying there was no one better to be in charge of Israel's security. But he also warned Barak that "Olmert is determined to avoid an election" and would not allow Barak to decide when the next election would be. Sources close to Barak said he, too, was against holding elections any time soon and that he was looking for a way to remain in the government while still appearing to have kept his promise to work to end Labor's partnership with Olmert, which he first made in May at Kibbutz Sdot Yam. "Barak wishes he could retract what he said at Sdot Yam," a source close to Barak said. "He succumbed to political pressure to say what he did, but he did not mean it as a promise that would be blown so far out of proportion. He resents and is annoyed that he has become the focal point of media attention after a war that he played no role in." Sources close to Barak said that he had not yet decided which course of action to take and would most likely not decide until Sunday at the earliest. They said Barak would eventually call a press conference to react to the report. While one Barak adviser said he might wait as long as two weeks before he responded to the report, another said he would probably react on Sunday to end the expected media pressure on him. People who have spoken to Barak recently said he was not considering initiating immediate early elections or agreeing to the Likud's request to hold the next general election in November together with the municipal races that are already set for then. They said holding the races together would cause too many political and legal problems. Both Olmert and Barak cleared their schedules to allow themselves time to read the 500-page report before reacting in earnest. Olmert's rivals in Kadima, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, also intend to wait to react until the nature of the political fallout from the report becomes clear. Olmert's associates said he was concerned that the members of the Winograd Committee would call upon him to quit even if they did not make such a request in the report. But a source in the committee revealed that its members had decided together that they would not speak to the press for at least a week after the report's publication. A Gal Hadash poll broadcast on Channel 10 Tuesday found that 58 percent of Israelis wanted Olmert to resign if the report's findings were harsh while just 23% wanted Olmert to remain. Two-thirds of respondents said that if Olmert quit, they wanted new elections and not a replacement from inside Kadima. Labor MK Danny Yatom on Tuesday threatened to resign if Barak did not quit following the report's publication, and Labor lawmakers Eitan Cabel and Ophir Paz-Pines said they would hold a rally in favor of Labor leaving the government. Barak's associates responded that his decision would be influenced by what was good for the nation and not by such threats.