Ephraim Sneh's resignation from the Labor Party should not surprise anyone. Over the past few months he has repeatedly expressed his disappointment with Ehud Barak's leadership and his frustration over the way the Labor chairman has been outlining since his election.
After being ousted from the position of deputy defense minister, and after being pushed into Amir Peretz's shriveled camp, Sneh spoke about a new road, new dreams. Those who listened could have found all clues for this resignation.
In closed forums he slammed Barak time after time. Sneh, one of Labor's veteran and dovish members, was shaken by the chairman's diplomatic approach. He was particularly enraged over Barak's failure to support the Annapolis peace conference and the party's faint diplomatic voice under his leadership. He waited to hear much clearer messages from the defense minister.
He wanted to see him removing roadblocks in the West Bank, pushing the negotiations forward, outlining a clear political line for the party he heads, taking part in Ehud Olmert's efforts to reach a deal with the Palestinians and returning the party to the social-democratic way.
But Barak disappointed Sneh. He chose to take the central-right road. And then, when he understood that his home no longer represents him, Sneh began thinking about a different road, a new left-wing political setting. On the diplomatic – and personal level, he now feels closer to Ehud Olmert than to Ehud Barak.
On the political level, alongside his disappointment with the chairman – he also knew that his chances to be reelected as part of the Labor's Knesset list were decreasing. His choice to embark on a new road brings him back to the public's awareness, but does not necessarily turn him into a political alternative. It is doubtful whether a party headed by Sneh will cross the threshold. There is greater doubt whether he can really influence what is happening in the political arena.
From a political-national aspect, this resignation is not very meaningful. Few, if any, will miss Sneh. But as far as Labor is concerned, his departure from a party which was his second home is a real drama. This time, Ehud Barak should bite his fingernails. Sneh is not Amir Peretz, nor is he Yoram Marciano; he is a different kind of person. He is one of the party's veterans, one of those who represented it respectfully for years, and his departure is another alarming sign for the chairman.
This is another symptom of the lame leadership of the person who returned to politics only one year ago, but is finding it difficult to return Labor to the role of a national alternative, and design an image for himself of a real leader.
The big question now is what Amir Peretz will do. Will Sneh's resignation be followed by a disengagement on his part, or is this just a desperate move by one politician who has just had enough? If additional Knesset members signal that they are unsatisfied with Barak's leadership, he has a real reason for concern: He can't disregard everyone all the time.