Independence faction 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak completed the process of leaving the Labor Party he
led until January when he officially formed the new Independence Party at its
inaugural meeting at the Council for a Beautiful Israel Center in Tel Aviv on
Speaking to the party’s founding 80 members, Barak complained
that Israeli politics had deteriorated into “tricks and shticks” and was led by
“too many opportunists and charlatans.”
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He vowed to change that with his
new party, rejecting surveys indicating that it had no chance of passing the 2
percent electoral threshold in the next election.
“I have bad news and
good news for you,” he told the crowd. “The bad news is that we are doing badly
in the polls, but the good news is that we can only go up from
Barak spoke in front of a wall bearing the party’s new blue, white
and red logo that features the national flag and quotes from Israel’s
Declaration of Independence. Barak was unanimously elected head of the party at
the event, which was held on the Hebrew calendar anniversary of his withdrawal
of IDF troops from Lebanon 11 years ago.
The party will hold its first
rally in a month and a half. Until then, Home Front Defense Minister Matan
Vilna’i will try to woo former MKs and other well-known figures to the
Barak did not seem to miss his former political home. He mocked
Labor, saying that “this is the first time that I feel I am in a party where the
relations between the members are genuine and real.”
Industry, Trade and
Labor Minister Shalom Simhon rejected criticism that Independence would be a
dictatorship led by Barak, who according to the party’s bylaws will not have to
face primaries or a central committee. The bylaws also permit the party chairman
to sign to join a government and to sign coalition agreements without
“There is nothing wrong with allowing the leader of a
party to run it,” Simhon told reporters. “That’s one of the reasons we left
Simhon denied any intention of the new party merging with the
Likud ahead of the next election. He predicted that MK Amir Peretz would win the
September 12 Labor chairmanship primary and make Labor into Peretz’s former Am
Ehad party, which won only three seats.
“I am emotional, and I don’t mean
that cynically,” Simhon said in his speech to the crowd. “It wasn’t easy to
leave my political home, but it stopped being a home. It stopped representing
the values I grew up on and stopped serving the principles of Labor. The party
forgot its way.”
The party’s bylaws do not indicate how its candidates
for the next Knesset will be chosen, merely saying that its secretariat, which
is made up of its current five MKs, will decide the method. But Barak said in
his speech that Independence would make a point of fielding an equal number of
men and women, listed zipper-style one after the other.
pollster Avinoam Brug, is expected to join the party and run on the list in the
next election. But officials in the party denied that he had been promised the
sixth slot after the five MKs.
The founding members voted to approve the
new party’s platform that was written by the head of the Independence faction in
the Knesset, MK Einat Wilf.
In her speech, Wilf took pride in having the
shortest platform of any party and that because of its brevity she hoped that
“unlike in other parties, people will actually read the platform.”
leadership candidates and MKs declined to respond to the formation of the new
party, deeming it too irrelevant for a response.
“What Barak and the
other Independence ministers need to be doing now is to quit the government,
because they are enabling the confrontation in September [at the UN over
Palestinian statehood] that Barak himself warns about,” said Labor MK Isaac
Herzog, a candidate for the Labor leadership.
Another candidate, former
Labor chairman Amram Mitzna, held his first campaign rally on Thursday night in
Haifa in which he vowed that under his leadership, Labor would never join a
government with the Likud or Israel Beiteinu.
In his speech, Mitzna
called for cutting the defense budget, said that everyone should serve in the
army or perform national service, and insisted that “the path to peace has not