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Monday, November 17, 2008
Ayalon, Meretz fail to reach agreement

Ayalon, Meretz fail to reach agreement
Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 16, 2008

Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon formally announced his decision to
leave the Labor Party at a Tel Aviv press conference on Sunday despite not
having a firm destination for his new political home.

In a late-night meeting on Sunday night, talks broke down without an
agreement between Ayalon and the new party being formed by Meretz and other
figures on the Left. The two sides decided to keep all their options open
and meet again after the new party is formed on December 5.

"All sides decided to continue to act independently at this stage and to
reconvene in upcoming weeks," according to a statement released following
the meeting that was attended by Ayalon and his new political partner MK
Michael Melchior, Meretz chairman Haim Oron and the representatives of the
new party, former MK Tzali Reshef and attorney Gilad Sher.

Reshef said Ayalon could still end up joining the new party but only at a
much later stage. Meanwhile, Ayalon's only option appears to be running with
Melchior's Meimad Party.

Meretz officials and figures on the Left involved in forming the new party
said it was not certain that Ayalon was wanted, and Kadima MKs said that
they did not want Ayalon in their party either.

The Meretz executive will meet in Tel Aviv on Monday to discuss progress in
forming the new party.

Members of the executive said it was important to insist on including
Knesset candidates who would bring additional mandates and expressed doubt
that Ayalon could fulfill that purpose. At the press conference, Ayalon
denied reports that he had contacts with Kadima about joining the party,
despite confirmation to the contrary from Kadima. MKs in Kadima said that
among the available MKs, Melchior was more attractive than Ayalon.

"Melchior has had great success in advancing education, but Ayalon has not
accomplished anything in the Knesset," a Kadima MK close to party leader
Tzipi Livni said. "Ayalon doesn't bring anything to Kadima. His views are
not the views of Kadima. He supported the Geneva initiative and he is way
too far to the Left of us."

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, who is in the party's right flank, added that
"it is unreasonable for a leftist like Ayalon to join a party to the Right
of Labor." Ayalon burned his bridges in Labor at his press conference,
lashing out at party chairman Ehud Barak and the party as a whole. He
rejected Barak's request that he quit the cabinet and the Knesset, saying
that only Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could fire him.

"I have gotten to the point where I could not convince even the people
closest to me to vote for Labor, that its path is the right path and that
Ehud Barak should be prime minister," Ayalon said. "Ehud Barak is not the
problem, which is deeper, but he could have been the solution and he has
proven to me and many in the party that he is not the solution."

Labor slammed Ayalon's decision, saying that his departure would only help
the party renew its ranks. Labor officials said there was now room in a
realistic slot on the party's list for new candidates Yariv Oppenheimer,
Daniel Ben-Simon, Avi Shaked and Einat Wilf.

"Ayalon the military man would be embarrassed by the behavior of Ayalon the
politician," an official Labor statement said. "A man who claimed to be
ethical and moral became a relentless zigzagger and opportunist. Labor has
strong roots and it will continue to be part of the country's leadership."

Barak said he regretted Ayalon's departure, which he said would hurt Ayalon
more than it would hurt Labor. Barak's associates said they did not
understand the difference between Meretz and the new party being formed.

Organizers of the new party said there would be no ideological difference
between Meretz and the new party, but calling it a new name would allow it
to reach out to different sectors of the population who would never vote for
Meretz or Labor.

A decision will be made by the December 5 founding rally of the party on the
new party's name and how its MKs will be chosen. One possibility that has
been discussed is alternating between Meretz members and leaders of the new

In a meeting with his party's Knesset candidates at Labor's Tel Aviv
headquarters, Barak blasted the new party, calling it a "fashion show."

"The split in the Left doesn't help," Barak said. "A voter on the Left must
ask himself who represents the Left's path and its legacy on socioeconomic
and security issues. The answer is Labor."

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