Barak Strikes Deal in Bid to Temper Labor Party Turmoil

Labor chief agrees to hold party primaries in 2012; Party set for contentious vote on constitution.

Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak, who has come under fire from those in his faction who accuse him of heavy-handed rule, struck a compromise Wednesday with Minister Isaac Herzog on the scheduling of new primaries.

The deal stipulates that the next party primaries will be held in 2012 ? as Barak had originally intended - rather than 2014.

Rebel Labor MKs planned to boycott the party conference Wednesday to vote on a new constitution, which would significantly increasing Barak's powers as party chairman.

Some of the dissenters told Haaretz that if the new constitution were confirmed, it would split the party.

MKs Eitan Cabel, Yuli Tamir, Amir Peretz and Ophir Pines-Paz said they would not attend the conference. Ministers Herzog and Avishai Braverman announced Tuesday that they were siding with the rebels. The ministers had demanded that Barak postpone the conference and try to reach a consensus on the constitution. However, the constitution is expected to be approved in any case, due to an agreement Barak reached with Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

Labor's negotiations with its rebel MKs lasted late into the night Tuesday.

Herzog and Braverman warned Barak to postpone the conference if he wished to avoid a split.

The party is facing "a political tragedy - the disintegration of the Labor party. This is bad for the State of Israel," Herzog told Haaretz Tuesday.

Herzog said responsibility to prevent the split rested with the chairman.

"A leader has responsibility to make a supreme effort to talk with everyone. He must wait with the constitution, listen and come up with ideas, and then he might find a solution that would calm things down."

"Barak must understand that the day after the constitution is confirmed, he might wake up to find it was a Pyrrhic victory," the minister said.