Despite Barak's Promise, a United Labor Declares: We Won't Bolt Coalition

The deadline for the release of the completed Winograd Committee report on the Second Lebanon War is nearing. But in Labor, whose leader Ehud Barak has promised to bring to an end his collaboration with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the report is published, there is a united front against leaving the government. Six out of seven Labor ministers declared, openly, that they oppose the party's departure from the coalition because of the committee's report, scheduled to be released next month.

The seventh minister, Barak, is debating what to do, but there is a growing feeling in the party that following his participation in the Annapolis summit he will find it very difficult to keep the commitment he linked to the report.

Barak's deputy at the Defense Ministry, MK Matan Vilnai, is also opposed to leaving the coalition, and so is Barak's predecessor, Amir Peretz, and Ephraim Sneh, who was replaced by Vilnai, and other party MKs.

For now, five Labor ministers have expressed, clearly, their opposition to leaving the coalition: Yitzhak Herzog, Shalom Simchon, Benjamin Ben Eliezer - all three close associates of Barak. Ben Eliezer told Haaretz last week that Barak will not resign from the government, and will make do with "a call to replace Olmert or evaluating the possibility of holding early elections."

The two ministers who backed Peretz in the Labor primaries, Yuli Tamir and Raleb Majadele, have made it clear that they, too, are opposed to leaving the coalition.

The relatively new Labor minister, Ami Ayalon, also joined the opposition to such a move. Ayalon told Haaretz yesterday that "so long as there is a diplomatic process and there is no indictment against Ehud Olmert, Labor must stay in government and support the process. From my point of view, let Avigdor Lieberman quit because of the peace process, and we will stay in the government and support it."

The arguments the ministers are using against leaving the coalition are varied. They include support for the peace process, concern that early elections will bring the right to power, and general satisfaction with the performance of Olmert as prime minister and the working relationship with the Labor ministers.

Now, that Annapolis is over, and as talks between Israel and the Palestinians are about to begin, it seems that the Labor ministers and MKs who always opposed leaving the coalition will find their position bolstered.