(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The first of the remaining Labor ministers quit the government Monday, following Defense Minister Ehud Barak's move to take four MKs with him and start a new faction on Sunday.
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Speaking at a press conference Monday afternoon, Isaac Herzog said that he is glad Barak left the party as it presents a chance to save the Labor party. Herzog said that he notified Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a short while earlier that he was quitting the government. He added that he hoped Labor Ministers Avishay Braverman and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer would join him shortly. Herzog said he spoke to party officials about preserving party unity and to decide on a date for new primary elections.
Herzog said that today, "Labor returns to being the political home of even those who felt betrayed by it."
Speaking in English, he concluded: "We will serve the people from the opposition. The Netanyahu government has come to a standstill in the peace process and in dealing with Lieberman's racist undertones. I will work with my colleagues to save the party."
Speaking prior to Barak's announcement, Labor MK Eitan Cabel told Israel
Radio that the Labor Party has drifted from its core values in the past
two years. He said the party needs to reflect and regroup following
Cabel said that regarding the peace process and social issues, the
Labor party has lost its way. He added that he thinks it is very
important to strengthen all of the parties to the left of Kadima.
Cabel said that the Labor MKs remaining in the party would need to "restore their house" to its basic principles.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman told Israel Radio that "our
mandate was [to bring about] a peace process with the Palestinians and
Barak was not interested in that." He added that from the moment the
party moved away from the peace process, it moved closer and closer to
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Braverman noted that Barak's decision came at a time when he was close
to facing party pressure to leave the government if it were not involved
in direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
The Labor minister added that he thought Barak's move away from the
party was a good opportunity for Labor to refocus itself. He wished the
defense minister luck.
Former Labor MK Ofir Pines-Paz criticized Barak and the four MKs who joined him in the "Independence" faction.
Addressing Barak's statement in his announcement speech that David
Ben-Gurion, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres had all made similar moves to
break away from their parties in the past, Pines-Paz retorted that Barak
"cannot compare himself to Ben-Gurion or Sharon." He explained that
Ben-Gurion made his move for reasons of historical significance. Barak,
he said, is breaking away from Labor because of "personality conflicts"
within the party.
Pines-Paz went on to accuse Labor under Barak's leadership of renting
out the Left and the party to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's
government and contributing to the delegitimization of Israel, for not
working towards a settlement with the Palestinians.