Barak plans to set up a new faction with Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked and Knesset Member Einat Wilf.
Barak during press conference (Photo: Asi Cohen)
Barak told a press conference at the Knesset on Monday morning that the new faction will be named Independence. "This isn't an easy move, even for me. (Former Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon did the same, (former Prime Minister David) Ben-Gurion did the same, and (President Shimon) Peres did the same," he said.
"We are setting up a faction, a movement and later on a party, which will be Zionist, central and democratic, and will follow David Ben-Gurion's legacy," the defense minister said, promising that the faction would act in accordance with a list of priorities which would put the State first.
"Then comes the party and then come we," he added. "The motto will be what is good for the State of Israel."
"We are facing difficult challenges, focusing on the peace process with the Palestinians, security-related and economic and social challenges. We are ready and willing to deal with all these challenges.
"We are leaving a party and a home we like and respect… Many of its members have experienced over the years the difficulties of daily life and the ongoing and unhealthy situation in the Labor Party, and they too were victims of the ongoing squabbles, the troubling drift to the left."
Barak slammed Labor members who he said "have been dragged to the Left, to post-modernism and post-Zionism."
"We've reached the conclusion that this anomaly in political life, this reality, must stop. We should be able to get up for work every morning without having to compromise all the time. We are part of political life in order to work, influence, and we plan to focus on that. This is the time to take action, and we're doing that today."
MK Wilf said during the press conference that she and her colleagues cannot sit in the government with a "stopper" for the political process. She slammed Labor MKs who refused to accept Barak's authority and "took the law into their own hands".
According to Wilf, Labor had been split into two parties "which cannot live together – one which sees the party going left, and the other which views a partnership with the government as the right cooperation with pragmatic elements in the Likud party and the government."
PM's aides help plan move
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aware of the move and encouraged it, and his associates at the Prime Minister's Office even helped Barak plan it. Labor's senior ministers - Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman - were surprised by the announcement.
"The split will create an island of stability, a small and consolidated group within the coalition," said a source close to Netanyahu.
According to estimates, Barak decided to split the party in order to avoid having to quit the coalition.
Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai sent a letter to Labor members on Monday morning, informing them of the decision to split from the party and set up a democratic, Zionist and Jewish central faction.
"The Labor's Knesset faction has become an unbearable place for parliamentary life," Vilnai wrote. "The party members worked against the faction and the party chairman. Each meeting you didn't know who was with you and who was about to quit and join a different party."
Addressing the difference of opinion within the Labor faction, Vilani explained that "there were regularly at least two factions in the Labor faction – one which views itself as a fighting Left and is in Meretz's political zone, and we who believe our future depends on returning to the historic place of the Labor Party, of David Ben-Gurion, a central party which sees the State above everything."
According to Vilnai, any call to quit the government would halt the peace process, so "in order to advance our own ideas, we have decided to embark on a new road."
Last week, Ynet revealed that former Defense Minister Amir Peretz was also leaving the Labor Party and moving to Kadima.
MK Daniel Ben-Simon announced last week that he planned to quit the Labor Party and set up a one-member Knesset faction after failing to convince the party to leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition. "I can't live with this coalition," he told Ynet. "The obvious conclusion is to get a divorce because the match has failed."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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