Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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AP
Former head of Israel's opposition, Tzipi Livni, at the Knesset in 2011. Photo by AP

The rift between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the latter’s perceived move leftward is continuing following a report Thursday that Barak met two weeks ago in New York with former Kadima chair Tzipi Livni to discuss political matters.

Barak’s office confirmed that the meeting had occurred.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan attacked Barak after the meeting with Livni was revealed.

“Barak keeps on breaking new records for subversion and ingratitude,” Erdan said. “After four years in which he has been filling a central position in the Netanyahu government, precisely at such a fateful time in the international arena he chooses to deal with petty politics and interests.”

In response to Erdan’s remarks, Atzmaut party director-general Oshi Elmaliah said, “The Likud ministers have lost it. We are still living in a free and democratic country. All party heads and political people in Israel, past and present, meet with each other, including Netanyahu and the heads of other parties, and so it should be.”

The report of the meeting, which was apparently meant to be kept secret, was the latest in a series of recent reports pointing to growing tension between Barak and Netanyahu. The prime minister’s associates claim that Barak has been trying to undermine Netanyahu and intensify the conflict between the premier and the White House.

Other political sources from both the left and the right claim that the tension has been initiated by Barak in an effort to strengthen his image as a centrist, which might help him attract votes from the center-left in the next general elections. Most polls over the past few months show that Barak’s Atzmaut party will not succeed in crossing the voter threshold needed to enter the Knesset.

Over the past few months, Livni has been examining the possibility of contending in the next elections as the head of a new centrist party being cobbled together by former minister Haim Ramon. A number of women’s groups on Thursday expressed disappointment that Livni would consider joining up with Ramon, who was convicted for indecent behavior five years ago after he kissed a female soldier against her will.

“It’s inconceivable that a convicted sex offender would be the motivating force behind Livni’s return to politics,” a statement issued by a coalition of women’s organizations. “We expect Livni to publicly denounce the sex crime committee by Ramon, and announce that she will not join up with him politically because of it.

“It’s sad and aggravating that someone convicted of a sex crime, even if it wasn’t formally classified as moral turpitude, can return to public life in Israel, skipping over concerns about women’s safety and the message that must be conveyed to women that there will be no sex offenders tolerated in Israeli public life,” the statement continued. “For us, the combination of Livni and Ramon is a public disgrace.”

The women’s groups behind the statement were: The Israel Women’s Network, Achoti – for Women in Israel, Itach –Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Economic Empowerment for Women, Women’s Spirit, the Mahut Center and the Adva Center.