Ehud Barak Splits From Israel's Labor Party

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has formed a new faction and split off from the Labor Party. Apparently he and Bibi Netanyahu had this planned for a while.

Barak plans to set up his new faction with Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked and Knesset Member Einat Wilf.

The new faction will be named Independence, according to what Barak told a press conference at the Knesset today.

"We are setting up a faction, a movement and later on a party, which will be Zionist, central and democratic, and will follow David Ben-Gurion's legacy," the defense minister said, promising that the new faction would put Israel first.

"Then comes the party and then come we," he added. "The motto will be what is good for the State of Israel."

"We are facing difficult challenges, focusing on the peace process with the Palestinians, security-related and economic and social challenges. We are ready and willing to deal with all these challenges.

"We are leaving a party and a home we like and respect... Many of its members have experienced over the years the difficulties of daily life and the ongoing and unhealthy situation in the Labor Party, and they too were victims of the ongoing squabbles, the troubling drift to the left."

Barak slammed Labor members whom he said "have been dragged to the Left, to post-modernism and post-Zionism."

This means several things. As the article notes, Likud PM Bibi Netanyahu was fully aware of this and facilitated it. That's obvious even without the article saying so, because otherwise the ex-Labor politicians could hardly have held on to their ministries.

So Netanyahu has decided to let Labor bolt the coalition and shift to its natural home on the Left, while creating a formula for keeping the more conservative and useful members in government and maintaining a governing majority that will probably be more  
stable... and somewhat more on the center/right.

It also means that Obama's efforts to meddle in Israeli politics by having Netanyahu's government fall and getting a Leftist government elected in its place have failed, at least as far as Barak is concerned. A tipoff on this was the huge amount of time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, who has a long standing and personal feud with Ehud Barak. Livni is where the Obama Administration's efforts will be concentrated from now on, to the extent that they continue to try to unseat Netanyahu.

There never was much of a chance to turn Barak against Netanyahu anyway, and Clinton and Obama should have known that. One should never underestimate the 'army ties' factor in Israeli politics.

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