Labor's Central Committee voted in favor of Chairman Ehud Barak's coalition bid Tuesday, effectively enabling the party to join Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
Barak was also granted carte blanche in naming the ministers to the various offices offered to Labor in the new, Likud-led government.
Party delegates convened Tuesday evening, amid stirred emotions and threats of a nearing rift within party lines, to decide whether to endorse the controversial bid. The deal, struck at the 11th hour and dubbed "an unprecedented move" by its supporters and a "breach of all the rules" by those objecting to it, had to be approved or denied by Labor's 1,476 delegates, before any further move could be made.
"We do not have a spare country. You can yell 'opposition' all you want but the majority of Labor voters want to see us in the government," Barak told the agitated delegates huddled in the auditorium.
"I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu. We will not serve as anyone's fig leaf. We will ensure there will not be a narrow right-wing government, but a real government that looks after the State of Israel."
Barak stressed he has no intention of stepping down: "I will be here in 2018, as old as Ariel Sharon was when he started Kadima; and in 2026, as old as Shimon Peres was when he ran for party chairmanship for the last time."
'Sleight of hand'
Prior to Barak's address, it was Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel who was the first to take the podium: "Yes, I too want to be a minister, but that's not why I went into politics. We have a way. We have faith and the thing that did us in over the past 10 years is the fact that we lost this faith. We've become the seculars' National Religion Party.
"If we had left the government after the Winograd Report came out, everything would be different, Mr. chairman. If we want to survive, we have to vote against those wishing to crush our home."
The meet (Photo: Dudu Azoulay)
Former Labor Minister Moshe Shahal, who opposed the deal, told the party's Central Committee that Labor "has no place in a rightist government, unless it wants to lose all of its values. What you're seeing now is an illusion, sleight of hand… The gall of presenting an ideological compromise as a political one… This is an opportunity for a historic move, all this party has to do is build up the courage and say it will not take part in an extreme-right government."
Labor Knesset Member Shelly Yacimovich, who also opposed the agreement, reiterated the sentiment: "This endless chase after seats is costing us dearly. The next elections will see us without any mandate. Choose (political) life over death.
"We are entering this government as an overlapping excess. This is Bibi's government, (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman's and Shas' government… This agreement sets its sights high –paper can tolerate everything."
Former MK Yoram Marciano voices his support for the coalition deal: "You tell me – how are we supposed to deal with the issues for the opposition?"
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog took the podium next, only to be booed: "I truly believe Labor has national responsibility stamped in its DNA," he told the delegates.
"We are on the verge of being granted a major part in the government, one I didn't think we could get, so I vote in favor and I'm willing to face the consequences of my decision. I believe in it."