Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog on Monday announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
government and called on his fellow ministers to do the same.
Herzog slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak,
from the Labor Party
earlier Monday together with four other Knesset members.
"The Labor Party which founded the State of Israel
got rid of a hump on its back. Barak's masquerade is over," he said. "My friends and I are on a mission to stabilize the Labor Party."
According to Herzog, "What's happening today is not the end of the process, but its continuation. I'm glad that Barak understood the reality and resigned from the Labor Party chairmanship. Today we can look in the public's eyes and talk sincerely.
"It's time to stop lying to ourselves and quit this government, which has brought about a deadlock and imposed (Foreign Minister) Avigdor Lieberman on us. I have announced my resignation from the government. I spoke to my fellow ministers and I am convinced that they will do the same, as they understand the reality very well and want to save the Labor Party."
Herzog accused Barak of failing to act against the incitement in the Israeli society, which he said "threatened to undermine Israeli democracy".
"In the past few weeks we have witnessed a disgraceful wave of incitement. I haven't heard Ehud Barak say a word or half a word about it," he said, adding that "Ehud Barak was not willing to lead one serious social agenda."
Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman was next to resign, calling on Ministry Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the eldest Labor MK, to take the reigns and temporarily head the party.
According to Braverman, "Barak is splitting from the Labor Party to become Likud
B if all goes well or Lieberman
A in the worst case. The last thing we need is an all-out war. I turned to (Ben-Eliezer), who has the experience and ability to temporarily lead the Labor Party, to take the reigns in order to, first of all, amend the constitutional failures imposed on us by Ehud Barak."
Ben-Eliezer was the third to quit. "I had a conversation with the prime minister about an hour ago in which I informed him that, unfortunately, I would be resigning my post as the State of Israel's industry, trade and labor minister," he told a press conference on Monday afternoon.
"My only motive was the peace process. I believe the peace issue is existential for the State of Israel," he added.
Ben-Eliezer referred to Barak's move "a forbidden act, a party chairman and faction members leaving the party in the dark and in an inappropriate way. The public will judge their actions."
According to the resigning minister, "I have no doubt that the Labor Party will make a comeback, because it's a party with values, with a culture of dialogue, with people who care.
"I don't want to take this too far, but since Ehud Barak announced his departure, we have received many phone calls from people informing us that they are returning to the party."
Ben-Eliezer said he was surprised by Barak's move. "I couldn't believe that Ehud Barak, who fled the party once, will try to escape once again."
He accused Barak of "spitting in the face" of the party's tens of thousands of voters, adding that he believed "(former Prime Minister) Yitzhak Rabin
is rolling in his grave."
Ynet has learned that Herzog and MK Shelly Yachimovich, one of Barak's strongest rivals in the Labor Party, agreed Monday morning to cooperate and lead political moves together.
Earlier, Yachimovich implied that she may run for the role of Labor chairperson in the future. "Today, more than ever, we see the need to reestablish a Zionist, social-democratic, social and sane party. I'll do all in my power for the Labor Party to become such an alternative again," she said.
Yachimovich defined Barak's move as "a corrupt and opportunistic moves, aimed solely at keeping Barak in the government." According to Yachimovich, "Barak led the Labor Party to a disaster, corrupted and dismantled it. The name 'Independence' is as cynical: Independent from a platform, from values and from commitment to the public and loyal to their seats."
An aide to Barak said in response to the criticism that "one cannot claim that Barak is destroying the party both when he is in it and when he leaves. In the current landscape of the Middle East, it's not such a bad thing for Barak to serve as defense minister and take care of the urgent security issues."
As for the peace process, the associate said that "Barak and Netanyahu will continue advancing the issue, as Barak has done up to now."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report