Ehud Barak publicly ridiculed Israel’s ruling Kadima Party and its likely next leader, Tzipi Livni.
The Israeli defense minister, whose Labor Party is junior partner in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition government, mounted an unprecedented critique Wednesday of Kadima ahead of its September 17 leadership election.
In an interview with Army Radio, Barak described Kadima, which former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created in 2005 to help push through the Gaza Strip withdrawal, as a “refugee camp” for “one-time” politicians.
Barak also scored Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, whom polls show leading the race to succeed Olmert after he announced that he would not take part in the Kadima ballot.
“I’m not convinced that the foreign minister has what it takes to give the answers on the really important security issues that a prime minister has to answer for,” said Barak, himself a former premier.
In a hint of condescension, he refered to Livni by her full first name, Tzipora, or “bird”. She always goes by Tzipi.
Unnamed Livni confidants were quick to tell Israeli reporters that Barak was acting out of desperation, sensing that the foreign minister could sap his support base among the politically centrist mainstream.
They said that by helping Livni’s biggest Kadima rival, hawkish Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, Barak hoped to undermine Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party, whom polls suggest would win general elections if they were held today.
Barak has vowed to lead Labor to victory in the next elections.