Historic Labor Party's Future in Doubt

Political analysts sure that Barak's abrupt move will strengthen Netanyahu's government, but not clear on what it means for historic Labor Party.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:58

Labor MKs Ben-Simon, Yechimovich and Herzog
Labor MKs Ben-Simon, Yechimovich and Herzog
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Political analysts have all but concluded that Ehud Barak's abrupt move to quit Labor and form a new party called "Independence" will strengthen the Netanyahu-led coalition government, and are now engaged in trying to ascertain what it means for the historic Labor Party.

Labor MK Shelly Yechimovitch, one of those noted for her outspoken demands to quit the government, responded to Barak's announcement with wrath: "This was a corrupt and opportunistic move, designed to save Barak's seat in the government. He has brought a catastrophe upon Labor."

Can the 8 Work Together?
The eight remaining MKs of Labor "will have to see if they can rise to the occasion and work together, or not," says former Labor MK Ophir Pines. He strongly attacked Barak's latest move, saying, "He should have resigned from the Knesset and gone home," and accused him of allowing his personal motives to govern his actions.

Pines acknowledged that had he himself not resigned from the Knesset several months ago, thus making way for MK Einat Wilf to enter the Knesset, Barak would not have been able to pull off his latest move. This, because a new faction cannot be formed unless it is at least a third of the original faction - and Wilf, as one of 13 Labor MKs and the 5th one to join "Independence," provided Barak with this margin. 

Ministerial Resignations
Among the eight who were "left behind," Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog announced his resignation from the government shortly after noon, and Ministers Ben-Eliezer and Braverman plan to hold press conferences in the coming hours in which they are expected to announce the same.

Three "Factions"
 Israel Broadcasting Authority political commentator Yaron Dekel says that Labor is now left with up to three factions in the Knesset: "The Peretz/Ben-Simon/Cabel/Majadele faction, the Herzog/Braverman/Ben-Eliezer faction, and the one-woman faction led by Shelly Yechimovitch."

Both Amir Peretz and Ben-Eliezer have led Labor in the past, Herzog has talked of running for party leader, Ben-Simon has threatened to form a one-man faction, Cabel has talked of quitting, and Yechimovitch has been amassing political strength among the rank-and-file.  It is possible that several of them will join Kadima and others will join the Likud, though it is currently equally likely that they will try to work together in Labor.

Peretz is meeting this morning with his three closest party MK colleagues - Ben-Simon, Cabel, and Majadele - in order to decide their future moves.

Labor is the current configuration of the party that led the State of Israel from before its establishment up until 1977, and has played a long-running and historic role in Israel's political arena ever since then as well. With Barak's resignation, however, it may have now come to the end of its road.