Barak Hints of Early Elections

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told bereaved families, who lost sons in the Second Lebanon War, that elections would be held "sooner than you think." Barak's Labor party is the one party with enough members in the Knesset (parliament) to bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

According to participants at the meeting, Barak also said the prime minister should have stepped down following the release of the Winograd Commission Report evaluating the government's handling of the war.

"I agree with you that Olmert should have taken responsibility and resigned shortly after the publication of the Winograd Commission's findings regarding the government's conduct during the Second Lebanon War," he said.

Asked by one father about his promise during the Labor primaries to quit the coalition after the report's release, Barak indicated that he was closer to leaving, but he would not give a timeframe.

"If values are important to him, the defense minister should step down," one of the bereaved fathers, David Einhorn, told YNet news. "If the country is important to him, he should do so as quickly as possible -- even tomorrow morning," he said.

Labor party members were quick to react to Barak's comments about pulling the party out of the government.

"Ehud Barak is indeed the chairman of the party," Member of Knesset (MK) Ami Ayalon told Army Radio Sunday evening," but he is not the party [all by] himself."

Israel's Channel 2 caught a conversation between Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Agricultural Minister Shalom Simhon, which they broadcast on the Sunday evening news.

"If he wants to commit suicide, he can commit suicide," Ben-Eliezer told Simhon, adding, "If he continues this way, [Labor] is finished."

A spokesman for Ben-Eliezer said he'd made the same remarks to the prime minister and didn't need Israeli television to relay the message for him.

In a further indication of Barak's waning popularity with party members, Eldad Yaniv, an attorney and, until recently, a close colleague of Barak's, quit the party Sunday.

The party chairman fired Yaniv several months ago over alleged differences in inter-party politics, though he played a key role in Barak's political comeback.

In a radio interview last week, Yaniv said Barak's behavior didn't befit a former prime minister or the minister of defense.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news

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