Rebels: Peace within Labor as likely as peace between PM and PA

Rebels Peace within Lab

Reconciliation in Labor can only happen if the party's institutions set a deadline of two or three months for the party to leave government if progress is not made in the peace process, four Labor rebel MKs said Monday in a meeting with a task force of mayors appointed to mediate between the legislators and Barak. The rebels said they would be willing to negotiate the timing of the deadline with Barak, but that if no such proposal were passed, he should instead allow them to split the party in a way that both sides could agree on. "The chances of us making peace with Barak are the same that this government will make peace with the Palestinians," a spokesman for the rebels said skeptically. "We haven't changed our conditions. If Barak finally accepts them, great." The task force, headed by Yokne'am mayor Shimon Alfassi, will report back to Barak when he returns to Israel from Europe later this week. Alfassi said he could not reveal what happened in the meeting until he reported to Barak, but he called the meeting "friendly and nice." Meanwhile, the Labor rebels had their hands full Monday when the coalition leadership decided to live up to threats made last month to punish MKs who are in coalition factions but vote against the government. MK Amir Peretz - one of four so-called rebels - will be forbidden from using coalition support to propose bills, from using a Labor slot to make speeches during the Knesset plenum, and from proposing subjects for plenum debate for the next month. MK Eitan Cabel received a similar punishment, but for a period of three weeks. MKs Ophir Paz-Pines, Shelly Yacimovich and Daniel Ben Simon are all also blocked from submitting bills or speaking on behalf of their faction for two weeks. Neither Yacimovich nor Ben-Simon are technically part of the Labor rebels, but in recent weeks have voted together with them, including on the vote to revive legislation on the crucial Golan Heights National Referendum Bill last week. Two weeks ago, Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin fired off a threatening letter to all coalition MKs in which he promised sanctions against any MK who refused to toe the government line. In the letter - as well as on Monday - Elkin emphasized that MKs who did not support the coalition would not be able to enjoy the privileges that they received as part of coalition factions. But coalition power will not entirely be able to stop the problematic MKs from getting their word out. Leading opposition faction Kadima has already promised that it will allow any sanctioned MKs to use Kadima speaking slots to address the plenum. All MKs also have the right to propose one bill without the support of their faction.