Ehud Barak said to rule out forming new party, but may make election run

Former PM hoping to team up with Labor and other prominent politicians on center-left in effort to oust Netanyahu

Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)
Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak has decided against forming a new party to compete in September’s elections, and is instead leaning toward joining a left-wing bloc including the Labor Party and other prominent figures with a similar political agenda, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

Over the past week, Barak has been rumored to be seriously contemplating a political comeback, which would either see him establishing a new party or returning to the Labor party in an effort to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Kan, Barak has categorically ruled out the former option and is now pursuing the possibility of teaming up with Labor as well as big political names such as Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni, Gesher head Orly Levy Abekasis and Ahi Yisraeli party founder Adina Bar-Shalom. The latter is the daughter of the Shas party’s late spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Barak, who was the last leader of Israel’s Labor party to hold the country’s top office, reportedly sent out feelers to Labor Knesset members seeking their support for him to temporarily run the struggling party for a year and see it through the elections.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

With other Labor members jostling to replace current party chairman Avi Gabbay, Barak is commissioning his own public opinion polls and will make a final decision based on the results, the report said. The party is set to hold a leadership primary in the coming months, ahead of the national vote.

It is not the first time Barak, 77, has considered a political comeback. The former premier and army chief has tested the waters several times over the years and hinted last December that he would run if a center-left political bloc was formed, but ended up sitting out April’s elections. Labor was ultimately decimated in that vote, dropping to its worst-ever total of six seats.

Kan reported that Barak has hinted that if former deputy IDF chief of staff Yair Golan were to throw his hat into the ring in next month’s Labor leadership primaries, there would not be a need for him to run as well.

“Golan is an excellent person and worthy of the job,” Kan quoted Barak as saying.

Another candidate considering a run to lead Labor is one of the party’s former heads, MK Amir Peretz.

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay (podium) flanked by Tal Russo (right) and former Labor leader Amir Peretz (left) addresses supporters and media as the results in the general elections are announced in Tel Aviv, on April 9, 2019 (FLASH90)

But according to Kan, officials within Labor are not happy with the idea, claiming Peretz is planning on creating a joint bloc with Likud after the September vote in an effort to ensure that he will be named successor to President Reuven Rivlin, who is slated to complete his seven-year term in 2021.

Peretz dismissed the report in an interview with Kan, calling it “an imaginary scenario.”

The former Labor leader claimed he had been the lone figure in the party who refused to be involved in considering the 11th-hour offer Netanyahu proposed to Avi Gabbay to convince the current faction head to join his coalition.

The package was said to have included an assurance that the coalition would support Peretz’s candidacy for president, in addition to as many as four ministry portfolios to be divied out to Gabbay and other Labor MKs.

Gabbay deliberated the proposal for several days before ultimately rejecting it after Channel 12 revealed the existence of the negotiations.

“My intention is to prove that it is possible to transfer as many as five seats from the right to the left in order to replace Netanyahu. I will never include my own personal endeavors in this effort,” Peretz told Kan.

Asked for his thoughts on the possibility of a Barak return to Labor, Peretz said he welcomed the idea.

MK Nitzan Horovitz of Meretz. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Separately Wednesday, Channel 12 reported that former Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz is considering a comeback of his own. The TV channel said Horowitz, its former correspondent, is working to build a network of supporters that would allow him to run for the leadership of the left-wing party he left in 2015.

It is not yet clear whether Meretz will be holding primaries ahead of the September vote. Current chairwoman Tamar Zandberg led the faction to a four-seat finish in April, just barely crossing the electoral threshold.

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