Barak - AP - Septmerber 6, 2010
Defense Minister Ehud Barak speaks to Labor party members in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. Photo by AP
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Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog began the formal process of removing Defense Minister Ehud Barak from his position as Labor Party chairman on Sunday, requesting that the internal election of the party chairman be held within six months; Barak's term as Labor head is scheduled to end in October 2012.

The request for the convention of the party's central committee, which sets the dates for the primaries, was submitted by a group of Herzog's backers to Labor Party Secretary General Hilik Bar, together with the signatures of 600 central committee members, as required.

The committee must convene within a month to discuss moving the primaries up.

Since Herzog announced his intentions two months ago to take over the party leadership, he has tried to speak with Barak about holding early primaries, in order to allow for sufficient time before the next general election to begin rebuilding the party.

Associates of the defense minister were quick to attack Herzog. One said his behavior was "childish, subversive and irresponsible, at a time when the defense minister is on a military-diplomatic mission in the United States."

The aide said Herzog could have waited until Barak's scheduled return on Thursday before submitting the signatures, "to enable the party chairman to deal with the issue."

Herzog is not alone in gunning for the Labor Party leadership. Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman last week submitted a request to the central committee, accompanied by 500 signatures, that will require the body to discuss the lack of progress in the peace talks with the Palestinians, while Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Barak supporter, is searching for a non-lawmaker to lead the party into the next general election.

Last weekend he met with former party head Amram Mitzna and urged him to renew his activity within the party.