The Knesset's House Committee on Monday approved Defense Minister Ehud Barak's
to split from the Labor Party
together with four Knesset members and set up a new faction called Independence.
United Torah Judaism,
and Habayit Hayehudi
MKs voted in favor of the move, Kadima
members were opposed and a Meretz
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni
responded to the Labor split during a Kadima faction meeting Monday afternoon, calling on the Netanyahu
government to "lose the small political maneuvers" and call elections.
"This is a sad day for Israeli politics," Livni said. "The Netanyahu government is a narrow government crumbling from the inside for lack of choice due to political decay and the absence of a vision and road.
"The Netanyahu government lost its legitimacy today and is living off small political maneuvers. The only way for political opportunism is elections, and Kadima is reiterating its call for elections."
The opposition chairwoman slammed Barak and his friends, saying that "the public in Israel sees its leaders, who will sell anything for a seat, abandon their road, past and heritage for a dubious present time at the expense of the State's future.
"Since the elections, Kadima has been loyal to its voters and is not selling itself for free," she added. Livni criticized Prime Minister Netanyanu, "who is busy with his survival."
The move was also slammed earlier by politicians from the Meretz and Kadima parties, while other lawmakers took advantage of the situation to mock the split party.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said, "This is a low point in Israeli politics, a cynical and miserable move. The entire Labor faction should leave the government. And now what? This new faction will get five ministers? Barak and (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu are proving that they will do anything to survive."
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) complimented Netanyahu on the move. "We should say 'well done' to the prime minister. He succeeded, and Ehud Barak has revealed himself once again as executing the National Union's policy.
"This is not what Ehud Barak was elected for. Ehud Barak was elected by sane people seeking a peace settlement. This announcement is an announcement on the end of peace. Ehud Barak is informing us today that he is joining (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman."
His fellow party member Yohanan Plesner eulogized the Labor Party: "A party with a glorious past, which fails to honor its past. A dying party emphasizing all the bad aspects of politics. I think this is a sad day. Mr. Netanyahu will buy anything."
MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said that "the Labor Party of the past few years is a story of a long tail wagging a small dog. Today the dog decided to separate from the tail, and rightfully so. I believe this is a necessary move, but it's not a simple day. We congratulate you. I wish you luck and foresee failure."
Labor's coalition partner, Yisrael Beiteinu, did not remain silent either. "We are laughing and joking, but at the end of the day it's an unfortunate move," said MK Robert Ilatov. "We accept this request because we usually accept political groups' requests to split."
MK David Rotem said that "the Labor Party has not been a party for a long time now. There are MKs in the government and Knesset who have no respect for the coalition or the commitments they have taken upon themselves."
Labor's senior ministers were surprised by Barak's announcement Monday morning.
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said in response, "This is a day of positive change for the Labor Party. Barak's retirement allows the party to renew itself and return to social work and a real political vision. I am staying in the Labor Party in order to lead it. I will bring in new and fresh forces and turn it into a real political alternative. I'll work to convene the party's leaders as early as today to make the required decisions."
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, "I'm looking into the situation created. No one was ready for this. I'm not dealing with the question whether I'll be Labor's next chairman. I'm not leaving the Labor Party. This is my home and this is where I'll stay."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report