Israel's Labor party to elect new leader
June 3, 1997
Web posted at: 9:43 a.m. EDT (1343 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Labor party was poised Tuesday to
elect former army chief Ehud Barak to succeed Shimon Peres as
leader of the main opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu's
Barak, who presents himself in the warrior-turned-peacemaker
mold of slain Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin, was heavily
favored to win the vote.
"I see myself as (Rabin's) follower and the one to continue
his legacy," the 55-year-old Barak said at a news conference.
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Barak -- who served as Netanyahu's commander in an elite
military unit -- was confident he could topple the prime
"I believe I can bring Labor back to power," he said.
Opinion polls have shown Barak and Netanyahu in a near dead
heat. Elections are currently scheduled for 2000, but could
come sooner if Netanyahu's coalition government collapses.
Barak's main challenger for Labor chief is Peres protege
Yossi Beilin, who helped orchestrate secret meetings with the
Palestinians in 1993 that led to the autonomy agreements at
the center of the Mideast peace process.
Political novice Shlomo Ben-Ami and former health minister
Ephraim Sneh are also vying for the position.
Barak -- Israel's most decorated soldier -- joined the party
two years ago and served as Rabin's interior minister,
succeeding Peres as foreign minister after Rabin's
assassination. Netanyahu's Likud party turned Labor out of
government in 1996 by stressing national security, a position
Barak believes he can match.
"The Labor party has gotten back up on its feet, and a
journey has begun which is perhaps long but which will in the
end return us to leading the country," he said.
Considered a brilliant military strategist, Barak commanded
the Sayeret Matkal commando unit in the 1970s and
participated in Israel's daring rescue of a hijacked airliner
at the Lod, Israel, airport in 1972.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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