Defense Minister Ehud Barak justified his decision to participate in the Likud-led government at a Sunday night meeting of Labor party activists at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. Responding to internal criticism of his decision to sit together with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Labor chairman explained that without the inclusion of his party in the coalition, a narrow nationalist government would never have been able to freeze Jewish construction or move forward with the creation of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria.
Barak referred to last week’s government decision to temporarily halt Jewish building in Israel’s heartland as an unprecedented step forward and claimed credit for influencing the Prime Minister towards the decision.
Noting that Sunday was the 62nd anniversary of the passing of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 that recommended the partition of western Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, Barak said that the intent of the international community in 1947 was to create two states for two peoples. He added that in addition to trying to bring the U.N. General Assembly’s 62-year-old recommendation to fruition, there were a number of additional matters that showed the Labor party to be a central force in Netanyahu’s coalition.
The Defense Minister challenged his opponents within the party to imagine what Israel’s current policies would be had Barak not brought Labor into the Likud-led coalition. “Everyone should close his eyes and ask himself what would happen without us. We were correct in our choice and decision to join the government. Would a narrow nationalist government that included Uri Ariel and Michael Ben-Ari [both of them National Union MKs] be able to make the decision to move forward with the vision of two states for two peoples? Would such a government be able to freeze Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria?”
Barak further claimed that history had validated his decisions as party leader and that Labor’s policy agenda was being achieved through the party’s participation in the coalition. “Even those who criticized our joining the government see eight months later the effect of Labor’s involvement, which is central in the government. If we had not joined, we would have MKs Yaakov Katz (National Union) and Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) in our place. This government understands the necessity of negotiations for reaching a two-state solution and ending the conflict.”
His mention of Orbach omitted the notation that the Jewish Home party is a coalition partner.