Ehud Barak
Photo: AFP
Labor forms coalition negotiation team
Chairman Ehud Barak tasks Histadrut head Ofer Eini, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Attorney Alon Gellert with trying to strike deal enabling party to join Likud-led government. MKs opposed to move: Barak not playing by the rules

Labor Chairman Ehud Barak named a coalition negotiation team Sunday, meant to try and formulate an agreement which would enable the party to join a Likud-led coalition.


The three-man team is made up of Histadrut labor federation Chairman Ofer Eini, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Attorney Alon Gellert.


"Labor has certain demands when it comes to economical, social and security issues, as well as other requirements stemming from its political path and stances," said Barak's office. "Deliberations on these issues have yet to be exhausted and seeing eye to eye on them is pivotal to an agreement.


"(Israel) need a unity government and not a narrow right-wing one. We call on Kadima to begin negotiations as well."


Barak is attempting to shape his interests ahead of the party's Tuesday conference, meant to discuss its possible teaming with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's government.


The Labor chair would like to present members of his party with a full-fledged coalition agreement, or at least with an extensive draft of one, so not to waste any time. Presenting the party with a de facto agreement would undoubtedly pressure them into approving it.


Seven Labor Knesset members who are opposed to the party joining a Likud-led government issued a statement later in the day, saying that "the appointment of the coalition negotiation team without the approval of the party's institutions is something which has never been done before.


"This move is breaking the party's democratic rules of the game and an attempt to force an established fact on the Central Committee members."

Earlier Sunday, Barak said that he would remain in Labor even if the party rejects his coalition bid. As for a possible split in the party over the bid, Barak said, "I think that question should be addressed to those who have threatened to split up the party, not to me. As far as I'm concerned, the answer to whether or not I will stay in the Labor party if my opinion is not heeded is yes."


Those who have sided with Barak so far include Minister Simhon, Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Knesset Members Orit Noked and Matan Vilnai and Ofer Eini. One pivotal vote missing so far is that of Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, who is said to still be deliberating the question.


First published: 03.22.09, 13:23
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