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Barak hints at Labor leaving government

Ehud Barak hinted his Labor Party could quit the Israeli government over the investigation into the Second Lebanon War.

Barak, the defense minister and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s most important coalition partner, was asked in an interview Wednesday whether he will quit the government after the Winograd Commission of inquiry publishes its second and final report on the summer 2006 offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The report is expected at month’s end and may stoke public calls for Olmert’s resignation over the failings of the war. But Barak was circumspect about his plans.

“I will sit quietly and think what the right thing to do is from the country’s perspective, as well as how to do it, and when I decide, I’ll do it,” Barak told Israel Radio, dismissing media speculation about an impending walkout as “drama.”

Though Barak criticized Olmert’s handling of the Second Lebanon War, most political pundits believe his Labor Party is no rush to join the opposition, especially given current Israeli-Palestinian peace moves.

But Barak also had strong words against a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee report last week that faulted the armed forces over the war but was sparing in its criticism of the government.

Barak said the military’s handling of its missions in Lebanon was “exemplary,” but that it was limited by the planning and preparations made in Jerusalem.

“I won’t let the armed forces be a scapegoat,” he told Israel Radio.

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