This is an important news flash from the World Union of Meretz:
This morning, January 17th, Ehud Barak, Chairman of the Labor party, had announced his secession from the Labor together with 4 other MK’s. Together they are forming a new faction called ‘Atzma’ut‘ – ‘independence’. This faction is not a left-wing party, in the words of Ehud Barak – a ‘center’ [centrist] party. This move was coordinated with and supported by Binyamin Netanyahu, in order to avoid Labor breaking the coalition.
According Dror Morag, the secretary-general of the World Union of Meretz, this strengthens Meretz as the “most stable Zionist left wing party.”
One can click here for Haaretz coverage of this story. Dr. Thomas Mitchell has already posted about this event on his blog (www.selfhatinggentile.blogspot.com), which begins under the heading “Is This the End of the Israeli Labor Party?” as follows:
I saw this morning that former Prime Minister and present Defense Minister Ehud Barak, chairman of the Israel Labor Party, announced that he was quiting the party along with four other MKs to form a new faction known as Atzmaut or “Independence.” This leaves the Labor Party with only eight MKs, its smallest caucus ever, and leaves Prime Minister Netanyahu with a smaller majority of 66 rather than 74. But it will be a more dependable and coherent coalition without Labor. And it leaves him with Barak, who since the government was formed as acted as its de facto foreign minister at least to the West. Barak is fulfilling the same function today that Moshe Dayan did for Menahem Begin’s first Likud government in 1977-80 and that Shimon Peres did for Sharon’s government after 2001.
I would argue that this is the most serious split in the history of Mapai/Labor. It is without a doubt the most serious split since former Chief of Staff Yigael Yadin formed the Democratic Movement for Change, known in Hebrew as Dash, in 1976 out of a number of former generals and personalities associated with the Labor Party and with the Free Center Party of the Right. But it is as least as serious as the Rafi split from Mapai in 1965 when former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, former Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan, and Shimon Peres split off to form an independent list. This was largely about Ben-Gurion’s need to spite the Old Guard of Mapai. Dayan, Peres and most of Rafi rejoined with Mapai and Ahdut Ha’Avoda to form the Labor Party three years later in 1968. Rafi never really established an independent infrastructure. Barak’s split is likely to be more permanent. It may be as serious as the Faction B split from Mapai in 1944 that eventually led to the creation of the Ahdut Ha’Avoda (ironically it means the Unity of Labor) party a decade later.
Labor has been ailing for decades. First, its 29 years of continuous rule as Mapai/Labor from 1948 to 1977 led to its replacement by the Likud after several corruption scandals were exposed in the year before the election. Then its lack of a real serious policy on the Arab question led it to remain in the political wilderness until 1984, when it was forced to form a National Unity Government with the Likud. Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres remained locked in a bitter 20-year personal feud from 1974 to 1993, which they had inherited from their mentors, Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan, a few years before. Labor has been riven with major factional and personality splits since before its foundation. First there was the Tzeirim (“youngsters”) versus the Old Guard within Mapai in the early 1960s. Then came Allon versus Dayan after Dayan was selected as defense minister over the more worthy Allon in June 1967 with outside support. Then Rabin and Peres took over the feud. Then Rabin agreed to the electoral “reform” of 1992 that gave all Israeli citizens a double vote. This severely weakened the dominance of the Israeli party system by the two major parties. …
Click here for Tom Mitchell’s entire blog post.