Labor Approves Delay of Leadership Primaries

Clashes break out after former MK targets Barak during party meeting on delaying leadership primaries.

The Labor party's convention approved on Sunday a proposal made by party secretary general, MK Eitan Cabel, not to set a new date for the party's leadership primaries before its disqualified census is investigated in full.

Cabel's suggestion was approved by a majority of 60 percent against 40. The approval is considered a defeat for Histadrut chairman and party leadership candidate MK Amir Peretz, who suggested to delay the primaries only by three weeks. The four other candidates - Ehud Barak, current chairman Shimon Peres, and ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilnai, supported Cabel's suggestion. Peres had backed down from his demand that the primaries be held on July 19.

Earlier in the evening a preliminary debate on delaying the leadership primaries came to an abrupt end when clashes broke out among participants, and a former Knesset member tried to assault Ehud Barak.

Former MK Addiso Masala, a supporter of Labor leadership contender Amir Peretz, mounted the platform where former prime minister Barak, also in the running to lead the party, was sitting.

Masala called Barak "the king of fakes in the Israeli political system," shouting that, "Ehud ran out on the Labor Party and returned in order to destroy what is left."

Masala's remarks sparked a brawl among the audience, and during which Masala tried to reach Barak. He was prevented from doing do by the former prime minister's bodyguards. Following the affray Cabel decided to curtail the debate.

"I cannot allow this to continue," Cabel said. "Go and vote."

The debate was terminated and members moved straight to a vote on whether to postpone the primaries in light of high percentage of invalid registration forms during a recent membership drive. The voting was secret, at Peretz's request.

At a first working meeting Cabel held with Peres on Friday morning, with Minister Haim Ramon attending, Peres announced that he had decided to forgo his demand for primaries in three weeks, despite claiming a sufficient review of the census can be conducted.

"I succumbed to pressure because I want justice to be seen, and not just done. I don't want any doubt remaining about the integrity of the Labor Party," Peres said on Channel 2's "Meet the Press" on Saturday.