Min. Barak: The Die Has Been Cast, Prepare for Elections

Barak told his Labor party colleagues on Thursday to get ready for elections. In Kadima, FM Livni said they need to be prepared for anything.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

FM Livni: We must be ready for elections
FM Livni: We must be ready for elections
Photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as chairman of the Labor party, told his colleagues on Thursday to get ready for elections by the end of this year. In the ruling Kadima party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni condemned the moral corruption exposed in recent days and said that Kadima should be prepared for any political development.
Minister Barak said Kadima was suffering from "moral paralysis."

Addressing a meeting of the Labor party directorate in Tel Aviv, Minister Barak announced, "The die has been cast, and it is now necessary to prepare for elections." To that end, Barak said that he had already assigned the party's General Secretary, Eitan Cabel, the task of "immediately putting together an election campaign staff for the coming elections."

Barak said Kadima was suffering from "moral paralysis" in that it was not able to address the "burning values issue." According to Barak, Kadima has a moral obligation to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is now facing several serious corruption investigations, for the sake of maintaining "appropriate norms" in the public sphere.

However, Barak left his party a single political back door, in the event that Kadima makes the internal changes he suggested: "We have an interest in regime stability, and we are willing to establish a new government in this Knesset, but in my estimation, we are headed towards elections, possibly even before the end of this year."

"Olmert and his party need to make some decisions. If they won't, then we'll make the decisions for them," Barak declared.

Speaking with the press, Labor party Knesset Member Ophir Pines laid down a clearer ultimatum: "If Kadima does not hold primaries in the next week or two, then we will ask the Knesset to call early elections."

Livni and Barak Agree: Kadima Must Act Now
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Livni, a Kadima party member alongside Prime Minister Olmert, said, "I believe in Kadima, but I think that we must prepare for any scenario, principally for elections."

Regarding replacing the leadership of Kadima, Livni said, without mentioning the Prime Minister by name, "I am a big believer in primaries. I think it is correct to include most of the public in the decision as to who the leadership is to be." Kadima party bylaws, however, currently have no mechanism for open primaries. 

Foreshadowing statements made by the defense minister later in the day, Livni said, "Kadima must make some decisions as to what it is doing. It is not possible to ignore events of the last few days. It is not just a legal matter, it is not just a criminal matter, and it is not just a personal matter of the Prime Minister. We are talking about questions of values and norms and their effect on the level of trust the public has in Israeli politics."

The Foreign Minister said that Kadima must be the leader in the coming political developments, rather than being passive "while Ehud Barak threatens to force early elections with [Likud leader Binyamin] Netanyahu and the Shas party."

Livni made the comments to reporters during a conference on homeland security at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem.
Saar, chairman of the opposition Likud party's Knesset faction, chastised both Livni and Barak for hypocrisy.

Skepticism Among Some MKs
The dramatic statements by the two most senior ministers, who of necessity work closest with the Prime Minister in matters of state, led to critical remarks from some MKs.

MK Gideon Saar, chairman of the opposition Likud party's Knesset faction, chastised both Livni and Barak for hypocrisy. It is impossible to reconcile talk of "values and norms and to simultaneously remain in Olmert's government," Saar said, adding that values are promoted by personal example.

MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party), cautiously optimistic over the political developments for his right-wing opposition faction, warned Barak that "the public will not put up with another round of his zigzags and doublespeak."

Far-left MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) praised Barak, but said that his moves are "too little, too slow and without a timetable."