Knesset Member Daniel Ben-Simon announced Tuesday he is withdrawing from the Labor party in favor of forming a one-man faction in the Knesset. The move requires the signatures of all party MKs including chairman Ehud Barak.
Ben-Simon's office said: "As per Minister Ehud Barak and faction chairman Shalom Simhon's proposal Ben-Simon will form an independent faction and is working to obtain the signatures of the rest of the faction members on the withdrawal paper." Ben-Simon said he was withdrawing as he could not bring the party to withdraw from the coalition.
Recently, Barak slammed Ben-Simon at a Labor faction meeting and criticized him for not voting in favor of the state budget. Ben-Simon told Ynet: "We have not communicated for some weeks now, then came the budget vote and Barak said we cannot carry on this way. According to protocol, whoever votes against the budget is removed from the Labor party. I accepted a proposal to withdraw to an independent faction."
Ben-Simon added that he received the legal resignation paper on Monday. "Faction chairman Simhon signed the paper but Barak has yet to. He should be the first to sign. I marvel at this conduct. He cannot suggest I withdraw and be the last to sign. Simhon told me he would go in the right direction."
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer announced later Tuesday that while he respects Ben-Simon's decision, he does not intend to sign the paper allowing his withdrawal. If he sticks to his decision, Ben-Simon will not be able to form an independent faction.
"I have much appreciation for him, but I haven't changed my mind," he said. "The mandate belongs to the Labor party, not to me or to anyone else."
Ben-Simon and Barak in better days (Archive photo: Yaron Brener)
Explaining his motives for withdrawing Ben-Simon said: "For some months now I do not see eye to eye with the faction and the coalition. I've lost hope. Since it was not possible to withdraw as a group I decided to expedite this move. The marriage failed and I say this with regret. I cannot live with this coalition. I have also lost faith in Netanyahu. I believed him as all the political elements did and I also reached the conclusion he was leading me on. One can only conclude that divorce is in order."
Referring to his future in politics he said, "I don't think it's the end of my political career. It may be the beginning of my political career. There are no current contacts with other parties."
Ben-Simon is the first of the "Labor rebels" to withdraw from the party. Former MKs Ophir Pines- Paz and Yuli Tamir retired from politics and many others in the party are looking for a way out. Minister Avishai Braverman who threatened to resign from the government in the face of the political deadlock announced earlier this week he will not retire alone.
Minister Shalom Simhon applied for JNF chairman, but his appointment was revoked by the Petah Tikva District Court. Also looking for a way out is Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilani who has announced he plans on running for JNF chairman.