Atzmaut's Bylaws Ensure Barak's Control Over Party

Defense minister's new Knesset faction to unveil one-page platform at official launch today.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose Atzmaut Party is due to be officially founded in Tel Aviv today, will wield most of the power in the new party, according to its proposed bylaws.

The party's one-page platform says it will be ready to reach an agreement with the Palestinians in the spirit of the Camp David talks in 2000.

Although surveys show Atzmaut failing to get enough votes to enter the Knesset, its leaders insist they are forming a serious party that will run in the next elections. Matan Vilnai, the minister of home front defense, has been meeting with key Labor Party activists in a bid to recruit them to Atzmaut, which broke off from Labor in January.

The bylaws, to be approved at Atzmaut's founding conference this evening, seem to have been custom-made for Barak. He will be chairman of both the party and its secretariat. He will also control the party council - the supreme governing institution that appoints the secretariat - as he has the authority to appoint a quarter of the council's members.

As secretariat chairman, Barak will be in charge of calling the meetings, running them and setting the agenda. He will decide whether the secretariat's vote on any given issue is conducted by telephone, email or some other method.

The bylaws also authorize the party's chairman to appoint its treasurer, legal adviser, spokesman and general manager, as well as to sign political agreements or make them orally.

Barak will not have to be elected in primaries, as the council will choose the party chairman. If there is more than one candidate, it will make its choice by secret ballot.

The secretariat will decide how to put together the party's Knesset list. It is expected to do so by means of a selection committee.

This means the party's current Knesset members - ministers Vilnai, Shalom Simhon and Orit Noked and MK Einat Wilf - will be spared costly, exhausting primary campaigns and will presumably be put on the party's Knesset list automatically.

Barak may summon party functionaries to meetings by mail, email, text message or the party's Internet site on 48 hours' notice.

The bylaws were written at Barak's instructions by attorney Ari Hillel, son of former Knesset Speaker Shlmomo Hillel. The attorney was forced to resign from his job as Beit Berl's legal adviser after it was discovered that he was also providing Barak, then Labor's leader, with legal counsel on setting up Atzmaut. Hillel will now serve as Atzmaut's legal adviser.

Barak's bylaws divest the party institutions of almost all their powers and transfer them to the chairman. For instance, Barak will not be obliged to submit coalition agreements to the party's convention, as he had to do in Labor, or seek the convention's approval to join the government.

The party platform, written by Wilf, is a one-page compilation of general statements, unlike other parties' thick volumes. It defines Atzmaut as a Zionist party "committed to building Israel's diplomatic, military, economic, educational, scientific and cultural power."