Labor Chairman Ehud Barak shrugged off the affair of his illegal maid as well as a blatant insult by Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini, who called him an "idiot".
"The only position I haven't held is punching bag. I don't think this is the appropriate style for public discourse." Barak said of his political rival's comment. "Ofer Eini has made mistakes, too."
In an interview with Israel Radio Thursday Barak added that if the maid, an illegal worker from the Philippines, had been hired by anyone by his wife the entire affair would have ended with a fine.
"If Nili (Priell) were not my wife, she would have paid a fine. She has asked to pay one and still has not been answered, for reasons I still don't understand," he said.
"Clearly the employment of a Philippine was a mistake and my wife admitted to this 10 months ago. I suppose that if such a maid had been found at Ofer Eini's brother's home the affair would have ended long ago with a fine," Barak added. "This whole business has just been blown out of proportion."
But over the course of the week the story of Barak's maid grabbed numerous headlines. "You are a minister in the government, why are you bringing in a Filipina," Eini asked on Channel Two television.
"You have to be an idiot to do that," he said, using an Arabic term, "ahbal" that commentators predicted would become a catchword for Barak's opponents in any coming election.
During Thursday's interview, Barak also responded to calls by his party members to quit his position. "The Labor Party has a constitution. There are rules and members are the ones who decide, not a televised interview with Ofer Eini," he said.
"This is the most democratically-ordered party around. But it has never been calm, even in Rabin or Peres's times."
Barak added, "I plan to lead the Labor Party. Those who find this difficult to deal with can leave and we will replace them."
Reuters contributed to this report
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