Barak: Ministerial Reshuffle on Hold Pending War Probe Findings

Rumors of government shake-up abuzz, as Netanyahu meets with PM and MK Ayalon rejects ministerial post.

Labor leader Ehud Barak is suspending the redistribution of his party's ministerial portfolios until the Winograd Committee investigating the Second Lebanon War publishes its final findings, Israel Radio reported early Tuesday morning.

Speculation over a coalition shake-up has recently reached fever pitch, prompting Barak to make his announcement.

Barak's fellow Labor member MK Ami Ayalon announced Friday that he has decided not to accept any ministerial post as part of a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the Labor Party primaries.

Ayalon lost a closely-fought race earlier this month to former prime minister Barak, who has since taken over for Amir Peretz as defense minister. Ayalon made the decision after holding several meetings with the new Labor leader.

Ayalon said he did not think it would be appropriate for him to take on a government post for three or four months alone.

The Labor MK added that despite rumors, he will not be partner to any move to oust Education Minister Yuli Tamir.

Ayalon said Barak has yet to answer what he termed the four central questions regarding Labor's participation in the government: First, what is the diplomatic policy that Labor intends to lead? Second, how active will the party be in passing the state budget? Third, how will the party respond to the publication of the Winograd Committee's final report on the Second Lebanon War? Fourth, will Barak agree to Ayalon's demand for a 'war on corruption,' including his allegations regarding the Labor primaries.

Netanyahu denies holding secret coalition talks with PMLikud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu denied Monday that he held negotiations with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the possibility of the Likud joining the government and receiving the finance portfolio.

Netanyahu and Olmert secretly met on Sunday. Likud members were puzzled by the fact that Netanyahu failed to notify them of the meeting during Monday's party assembly.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu said that in their meeting Sunday Olmert and Netanyahu discussed matters of state ahead of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and updated each other on the details of their recent visits to the Unite States.

Likud members demanded Monday that Netanyahu explain reports that Olmert is considering offering him the position of finance minister. Party members told Netanyahu they were puzzled by the fact that he waited until noon Monday before announcing that the Likud would not join Olmert's government.