Has Barak fi­nally man­aged to de­stroy the Labour party?

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

LABOUR Chair and De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak added a new ti­tle on Mon­day: Labour par­lia­men­tary fac­tion leader. Mr Barak had to as­sume the po­si­tion af­ter his last loyal back-bencher an­nounced he was re­sign­ing from the post.

MK Daniel Ben-Si­mon said he was re­sign­ing be­cause “Labour has not ful­filled its diplo­matic goals and does not be­long in the coali­tion”.

Mr Ben-Si­mon, who had stood by the leader since the elec­tions, said he would not be vot­ing ac­cord­ing to the coali­tion whip and ac­cused Mr Barak of be­ing “re­spon­si­ble for build­ing in the set­tler out­posts”. Mr Barak had re­peat­edly promised the out­posts would be dis­man­tled but, so far, no or­ders have been given.

Af­ter lead­ing Labour, which dom­i­nated Is­raeli pol­i­tics for decades, to its most dis­mal elec­tion re­sult ever — 13 Knes­set seats — Ehud Barak has now lost the sup­port of the six MKs who were not ap­pointed min­is­ters or deputy min­is­ters.

All the back­benchers have now called for the party to leave the coali­tion and four of them are ac­tively seek­ing to re­place the chair­man or split the party. Two of the min­is­ters, Avishai Braver­man and Yitzhak Her­zog, are also thought to be es­tranged from Mr Barak.

“The re­bel­lion is tak­ing place only at a par­lia­men­tary level,” ex­plained a Labour branch chair­man, “be­cause Barak now con­trols the party ap­pa­ra­tus and, as it is, there is barely any grass­roots ac­tiv­ity. Who wants to be in Labour to­day, when the party’s leader is only in­ter­ested in Labour as a plat­form for his own as­pi­ra­tions as de­fence min­is­ter?”

Labour, once the cen­trist-left es­tab­lish­ment, has been sup­planted by Kadima and Mr Barak’s own po­si­tions are vir­tu­ally in­dis­tin­guish­able from PM Ne­tanyahu’s.

By all ac­counts, his re­la­tion­ship with Mr Ne­tanyahu is much closer than with his own party col­leagues.

Polls last week showed that Labour would now strug­gle to achieve even seven Knes­set seats. The slump is di­rectly con­nected to Mr Barak’s lack of lead­er­ship but, at the same time, he re­mains the pub­lic favourite for de­fence min­is­ter.

Were Labour to leave the coali­tion, Mr Ne­tanyahu would still have a small ma­jor­ity, but he would be open to po­lit­i­cal black­mail by the small­est fac­tions and by the right wing.

Mr Ne­tanyahu’s only al­ter­na­tive would then be to in­vite Kadima, the cen­trist party he has un­suc­cess­fully tried to di­vide and marginalise, into his gov­ern­ment.

PHOTO: AP

Mr Barak is ru­moured to have a close re­la­tion­ship with Mr Ne­tanyahu

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