|Did Barak get better end of the bargain? Photo: Gil Yohanan|
Labor lauds 'dramatic achievement'
Barak associates says Labor gained plenty in deal with Livni; Kadima officials disagree
Several hours after Ynet published the main clauses of the apparent coalition deal between Kadima and the Labor party, both sides are claiming victory.
Labor Chairman Ehud Barak's associates admitted that they were unable to secure all their demands, yet still claimed that Labor was able to obtain a large part of its initial requirements. However, officials in Kadima are insisting that the concessions made by the party in order to bring Labor into the government are insignificant.
Barak's associates said their major achievements pertain to the defense minister's role in the next government and to the level of control he will be exercising on key issues, including diplomatic contacts with the Syrians and Palestinians.
"The concurrence that no cabinet decisions will be taken without Barak's support and approval is dramatic," a source close to the Labor chairman said. "This is a big difference from the situation thus far, and it will require Livni's genuine cooperation. The agreement on Barak's considerable, intensive, and ongoing involvement in diplomatic negotiations is very significant."
Labor sources also expressed their satisfaction over achievements in the economic realm. A senior Labor official said that the 2009 State Budget will ultimately include a much greater investment in national infrastructure. Other sources said that the deal's most significant economic achievement pertains to the increased funds earmarked to students and pensioners.
However, Barak's associates admitted that for the time being, the understandings reached in respect to contentious Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann are inadequate.
After nearly a month of negotiations, it appears that Barak and Labor capitulated. However, as Labor wanted to enter the government in any case, any achievements it was able to secure, and particularly those related to Barak's powers within the government, should not be dismissed. On the other hand, Barak wanted to lead negotiations with the Syrians himself, but Livni curbed him on that front.
Meanwhile, Livni's associates downplayed Labor's excitement, saying that Treasury officially earmarked more funds for the purpose of political bargaining, which takes place every year ahead of the State Budget's approval. "It doesn't matter whether this money is distributed now or in two months," one source said.
However, Livni did have to cave somewhat during the talks, especially in respect to the meaningful changes in matters pertaining to running the state. Barak will not serve as a "second prime minister" alongside her, yet he will be involved in all fateful decisions, including those on the diplomatic front.
Now, all that is left is to see whether the agreement reached over the past month between Barak and Livni will be maintained given Israel's complex political reality, as well as the very different character of the Kadima and Labor leaders.
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