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Barak vows not to sit in Netanyahu government ‘under any circumstances’

Former PM’s pledge comes after his fellow party member Yair Golan declines to rule out future partnership with premier

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday pledged his dovish, as-yet unnamed political party would not sit in the same government as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the September elections.

“Our goal is to bring Israel back on track and topple the Netanyahu regime,” said Barak at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

“We will not sit with [Netanyahu] in the same government under any circumstances or in any way. We will join together to bring him down and after his departure we will sit with all those who agree with… our outlook: a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, in the spirit of the values ​​of the Declaration of Independence and the vision of the prophets,” added the former defense minister who served under Netanyahu until 2013.

His comments came hours after his party’s No. 2, Yair Golan, a former deputy army chief of staff, signaled openness to future partnerships with Netanyahu.

“I don’t see a situation in which we’ll enter a government in which indictments are served against the prime minister,” Golan told a Haaretz podcast, referring to the pending criminal charges against the prime minister. “My basic tendency is to say that we aren’t entering [a Netanyahu coalition], but it isn’t right to deal with speculation.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak (2R), Prof. Yifat Bitton (2L), retired major general Yair Golan (R) and Dr. Kobi Richter pose for a picture during a press conference announcing the establishment of a new political party led by him in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)

“We’ll wait and see what the alternatives are,” continued Golan. “In general, in life, you choose between bad and worse.”

Barak on Tuesday also pledged to scrap proposals to regulate ultra-Orthodox enlistment. He put forth an “integration plan,” which he claimed will work to integrate Haredi Israelis through national service programs rather than military service.

The issue of Haredi military service was a bone of contention between Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman party during the unsuccessful May coalition negotiations, which ended with a new round of elections called for the fall, the second in under six months.

Barak announced the establishment of his new party last week, vowing to defeat Netanyahu come September.

Barak was the Israel Defense Forces’ longest-serving chief of staff and the country’s most decorated soldier before becoming prime minister in 1999 after defeating Netanyahu. Following his defeat in 2001 to the late Ariel Sharon, he temporarily retired from politics, but returned to the Labor Party in 2005.

From 2007 to 2013, he served as defense minister, the last four years of which were under Netanyahu.

In 2011, while serving as defense minister under Netanyahu, Barak split with Labor in order to remain in the coalition government despite the objection of most of the party.

In his new party, Barak is joined by former deputy IDF chief of staff Golan; law professor Yifat Biton; entrepreneur Kobi Richter; former Labor Party member Yaya Fink; author-attorney Noa Rothman, who is the granddaughter of the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin; and former head of the right-wing Jewish Home’s women’s caucus Sagit Peretz Deri.

In announcing the formation of his party, Barak, 77, sent shudders through the ranks of both the ailing Labor Party and the centrist Blue and White. Both are likely to see voters defecting to the former prime minister and IDF general who declared himself the only person capable of unseating Netanyahu.

Barak is also reportedly in talks with Emilie Moatti regarding the possibility of the Labor activist joining his slate as well — which would be an additional blow to the venerable party that was holding its leadership primary on Tuesday.

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