Barak: I'll quit coalition once I know Labor will win elections
Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak on Friday told faction members that he would pull Labor out of the government coalition only once he was certain the party could secure victory in the next election.
Barak said he would quit the government only "in the event I know the party will win [the election]," adding that leaving the government "just because of criticism from party members" would not be prudent.
"There were instances in which the Labor Party left governments at the wrong time and did not gain a thing from it," Barak said.
The Labor chairman's comments came in response to recent talk about the possibility of quitting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, of which it is the second largest part.
During Barak's campaign for Labor Party chairman, he pledged to leave the coalition once the final Winograd commission report critiquing the government's execution of the Second Lebanon War is published. The report is expected to include scathing criticism of the government.
This week, the High Court of Justice turned down appeals against the commission, paving the way for the report's publication possibly in the coming weeks.
"If we leave the coalition, we will die in justice," [a terrible translation - the Hebrew was "we will die and justifiably so"] Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon echoed Ben-Eliezer's sentiments, adding, "If we leave the government during the peace process, the public will not forgive us for it."
Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz replied that "nothing came [of the Annapolis conference], and there won't be peace in 2008."
Barak acknowledged Pines-Paz prediction, but added that should Israel and the PA fail to hammer out a peace deal, "it won't be because of [Israel]. In Israel, there's a silent majority of 80 percent that wants peace. The problem is on the other side."
Barak also commented on the internecine strife within the party, saying "it's good and it's necessary to have arguments in the party, but only on principle rather than political considerations. I'm the head of the peace camp and I'm also responsible for the security of the residents of Israel."