Calls Said Growing Within Labor for Barak to Quit Olmert Coalition

Barak aides appear to be leaning towards remaining in coalition, say quitting would be irresponsible.

One day following the release of the Winograd Committee's final report on the Second Lebanon War, Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak is coming under increasing pressure from rank-and-file Labor Party members to follow through on his campaign pledge to quit the coalition should the prime minister refuse to resign.

Aides to Barak told Army Radio on Thursday that the report "isn't as grave as believed," yet the defense minister does find some elements troubling. Given the report's criticisms of Olmert, Barak is in no hurry to declare his intention to remain in the government.

Aides say Barak understands that while the report does exonerate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on a number of aspects, it also finds fault with the premier on others, Army Radio reported.

Yet, Barak's circle of advisors appear to be increasingly convinced that resigning from the government at this stage would be irresponsible given that the defense minister is currently the only one who can - and must - correct the inadequacies cited by the Winograd report, Army Radio reported.

Since it became clear Olmert has no intention of stepping down, public attention has shifted to the Labor Party chairman, who has now become the focal point of protests spearheaded by reservist soldiers who fought in the war as well as the bereaved families of Israel Defense Forces troops who fell in battle.

The fault line within Barak's faction runs between MKs who are demanding Labor pull out of the government - Ophir Pines-Paz, Eitan Cabel, Shelly Yachimovich, and Danny Yatom - and senior Labor members serving as ministers in the cabinet who argue against leaving the coalition, Army Radio said.

"I call on Barak to leave the government, to abide by his obligation to the public," MK Pines-Paz said. "I still believe Ehud Barak is cut from the cloth of leaders. Barak must do the intelligent thing."