Sparse left-wing bloc to go into opposition

Barak insists he'll stay on as Labor leader to "rehabilitate and rebuild" party.

Meretz beit hanassi 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Meretz beit hanassi 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Thursday that his party would go into the opposition rather than negotiate to join a government that includes Israel Beiteinu. He stressed that he planned to remain party chairman. "The public spoke up loud and clear and under these circumstances it is clear that we are going to the opposition," Barak said at the beginning of a Labor faction meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday. During the meeting, Labor members decided against recommending anyone to form the next government. "Any recommendation would be seen as interfering in the coalition negotiations, where we don't want to set foot," Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich said as her party's delegation arrived at Beit Hanassi to consult with President Shimon Peres. "We considered recommending Livni but decided against it when she agreed to almost all of [Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman's demands." "The current picture is complicated and troubling because, of all the parties, Israel Beiteinu led by Lieberman will be one that makes kings and decides who the next prime minister will be," said Barak in Tel Aviv. "This reality leaves us one choice only - not to recommend any of the candidates for the premiership." Barak admitted that both he and Labor had made mistakes, but said it would be wrong to eulogize them. "We all must lend a shoulder to rehabilitate and rebuild the Labor Party," he said. "Labor has a long tradition and heritage, and deep roots of working people. Above all, we have the possibility of bringing the Labor Party back to where it deserves to be, the center of the political map." Barak played down speculation that he was planning to resign the party chairmanship to open the way for a cabinet appointment. Later on Thursday, Barak announced that he would appoint Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog to oversee the logistics of going into the opposition. Labor joined Meretz and Hadash in deciding not to recommend anyone for forming the next government. Both had declared earlier this week that they would be a "fighting opposition" to what they expected would be an "extreme right-wing government," and would not negotiate to enter a coalition with Lieberman.