Barak: Win Proves My Socioeconomic Creds

The newly-elected Labor chief, Ehud Barak, told his supporters yesterday that the primary he clinched this month proved that his faction in the party was even more committed to socioeconomic issues than that of his predecessor, Amir Peretz.

Barak also reiterated his demand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign after the release of the final version of the Winograd report on the government's performance during the Second Lebanon War if the document names Olmert as responsible for the war's failures.

"I don't believe in the existence of one single socioeconomic faction in Labor. Anyone claiming otherwise is making unfounded statements.

"We have people from the peripheral towns here, from Acre, from Dimona, Nahariya. We won the elections in those places because we are the socioeconomic faction," Barak told hundreds of Labor supporters last night at the party's headquarters in Hatikva quarter in Tel Aviv.

Barak countered claims by Peretz and his associates, who accused him of entering Olmert's cabinet too hastily, without making enough demands.

Barak, who will be the next defense minister, also said he intended to begin negotiations with Olmert over Labor's plans to stay in the coalition with the prime minister's centrist party, Kadima. According to Barak, the negotiations will begin right after Olmert returns from his current visit to the U.S.

Barak also thanked one of Peretz's old allies, Ofer Eini, the head of the Histadrut labor federation.

Sources said that by thanking Eini publicly, Barak had admitted to cooperating with Eini against Peretz, a rumor that Barak's advisers denied during the election campaign.

During the campaign, Labor officials told the media that Eini, who had been Peretz's protege, put his services at Barak's disposal and used the Histadrut to promote Barak.

Eini was just one of the public figures whom Barak thanked in his speech. These included activists as well as the public sectors that supported Barak, a former prime minister.

Barak told the crowd that he will now lead Labor according to the legacy that prime minister Yitzhak Rabin bequeathed before he was assassinated in 1995.

"My door at the defense ministry will be open to all of my supporters until we go on to win the general election," Barak said. He concluded his speech by saying: "Labor has always been my home, and in this home I will always stay, forever."