On the Comeback Trail: Barak?s Up and Running
Contending that only he can lead Labor to victory against the Likud in elections scheduled for November 2006, former PM Ehud Barak has re-launched his bid to become leader of the Labor party.
First Publish: 6/15/2005, 3:07 PM / Last Update: 6/14/2005, 6:20 PM
Claiming that Israel needs a “revolution,” Barak discounted rumors Tuesday morning that he was withdrawing from the race, in which he faces four other candidates vying for the top party post. Barak cited his experience as a former prime minister who succeeded in wresting power from the Likud as his main advantage over his opponents.
"If we run someone who hasn't been a top minister, we will crash in the election,” said Barak. "In two weeks [in the Labor primaries], we will present at the top of Labor a candidate for prime minister who can beat the Likud and change the reality. The Labor voters will see this and bring us to victory on June 28... The government is ignoring its obligations to its citizens, isn't defending its people by not building the fence, or fighting corruption and crime."
A poll released on Wednesday shows that candidate Shimon Peres leads in public support among Labor voters, followed by Amir Peretz, Barak, Matan Vilnai, and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Barak had harsh words for his opponents, particularly for Vice Prime Minister Peres. Peres has held top party spots since the days of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who established Mapai, the forerunner of the Labor Party.
Despite Peres’ lead over Barak in internal party polls, Barak called Peres “a loser," based on Peres’ demonstrated inability to win in several election against the Likud.
“Peres is the world champion in polls, but he has never beat the Likud," Barak said. "Only Rabin and I have done that, despite what the polls said then. Polls only respond to the mood at the moment they were taken, but leadership is a long-term matter." Barak also accused Peres of trying to postpone the elections.
Peres, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for having wrought the ill-fated Oslo accords, attempted to be diplomatic against Barak’s personal attack. “We will not be dragged into a slander match. One should not judge another in his time of distress," read a statement issued by his campaign.
Barak called the other leading candidates - Minister without Portfolio Matan Vilnai, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and Histadrut Labor Union Chairman Amir Peretz - “flies” hovering around the elderly Peres.
Peretz suffered a defeat in the Knesset today, when it voted to approve a preliminary reading of a bill forbidding one person from serving as both Histadrut Chairman and Knesset Member at the same time.