January 17, 2011
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has split from the Labor Party, which he serves as chairman, and will form a new party. The new party is expected to be called Atzmaut, or Independence.
“We are creating a faction, a movement and eventually a party that will be centrist, Zionist and democratic,” Barak told reporters Monday.
Four other Labor lawmakers joined Barak on Monday: Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon; Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai; Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked; and freshman Knesset member Einat Wilf.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already has begun negotiations to keep the new faction in his government. If successful, he will maintain a parliamentary majority, despite the exit of other Labor ministers.
The Labor party, headed by Barak, held a total of 13 Knesset seats. With the announcement of a new faction, Barak and his colleagues are expected to stay in Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
Assuming all of the eight remaining Labor members quit the coalition, Netanyahu will be left with a coalition of 66 members, down from the current 74.
Yossi Verter, a veteran political analyst for the daily Haaretz newspaper, told CNN that despite likely losing some coalition seats, Netanyahu has come out the winner in the political drama.
“Although Netanyahu loses eight members of his coalition, he gains a loyal and stable coalition of 66 members who no longer hand out deadlines,” Verter said.