JERUSALEM – Israel’s 10th prime minister, Ehud Barak, wants to return to Villa Aghion, the Jerusalem mansion which since 1974 has served as the prime minister’s official residence.
Barak, who served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001, intends to run for both the leadership of the party and the position of defense minister.
The two posts are currently held by Amir Peretz, who has had a low popularity rating since he came to office in last March’s Knesset election, and especially since last summer’s war in Lebanon.
Other candidates in the race include MKs Ophir Pines-Paz, Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom and Peretz.
Pines-Paz urged Barak to reconsider his decision. “I say to Barak again not to run, but rather to join me in my campaign,” Pines-Paz said. “Together, we’ll spread the message – ‘Barak for defense minister and Pines-Paz for Labor Party head.’ This is the formula that will answer fully and truly to the needs of the State of Israel and the Labor Party.”
Tourism Minister Yitzchak Herzog, who served as cabinet secretary under Barak, endorsed the former prime minister. “It was not an easy decision,” Herzog told Army Radio, “and it was accompanied by many hesitations, but … Barak is first among equals and he is the man who must lead the State of Israel.”
Barak and Herzog were both involved in the Labor Party campaign funding scandal uncovered some seven years ago.
(There were no criminal indictments, although then-state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg wrote that Herzog headed a fundraising framework that “arrogantly trample[d] the law,” and that Barak and his party had “struck a great blow at the rule of law and at an important fundamental in our lives.”)
Labor ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Shalom Simchon are also backing Barak. Other MKs are expected to join the bandwagon as well. (Israel National News)