It is not a coincidence that Barak's new faction is scheduled to hold its first official meeting on the same week Israel celebrates its 63rd Independence Day.
"The Independence Party considers holding its first assembly immediately after Independence Day a symbolic matter that reflects its essence as a national and Zionist party that draws inspiration from David Ben-Gurion's leadership," said MK Einat Wilf, the faction's chairwoman.
Yediot Ahronot has learned that Barak has been making covert efforts over the past few weeks to use the administrative framework of an existing faction as a foundation for Independence, instead of going through the elaborate process of establishing a new party, which requires the collection of signatures from citizens and registration with the Registrar of Political Parties, among other bureaucratic measures.
Quid pro quo?
Barak negotiated with Brigadier-General (Res.) Avigdor Kahalani, the chairman of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers, in order to take over his Third Way party. The latter, which was formed in 1996 and effectively ceased to exist in 1999. Kahalani has reportedly agreed, and the faction is now set to be renamed Independence. Barak, who cut through months of red tape with the maneuver, is expected to recommend Kahalani's term as AWIS chairman to be extended this summer.
Kahalani denied that his decision to hand over the party's infrastructure to Barak has anything to do with his AWIS chairmanship. He called the claim "malicious" and said that the AWIS board has asked him to stay on for another term.
"The Third Way is a de facto shelved party, and since I don't have any intentions to return to politics I agreed to let Barak use it to establish Independence," Kahalani said. "I only told him that I hope his party does not give back the Golan Heights, because that's the reason that we established the Third Way. The subject of my term never came up."
The defense minister's office denied any connection between the issues as well.
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