Labor Party Woes 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Less than an hour after Defense Minister Ehud Barak completed his press
conference announcing his surprise separation from the Labor Party, the House
Committee voted to approve the formation of Barak’s new faction, to be called
The committee voted by a majority of 11-3 to approve the
request for separation submitted by Barak, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon,
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister
Orit Noked and MK Einat Wilf.
Simhon looked on as Wilf spoke during the
lively meeting to explain the nascent faction’s decision to split from the
historic Labor Party – but the party’s second representative on the committee,
Daniel Ben-Simon, was glaringly absent from the proceedings, and
Instead, it was Kadima MKs Yohanan Plesner, Yoel Hasson, Shai
Hermesh and Rachel Adatto and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz who spoke out against
The confusion among the Labor Party’s remaining members was
highlighted when House Committee chairman Yariv Levin pointed out that their
Knesset faction’s current official name was “the Labor Party Under the
Leadership of Ehud Barak” – a moniker that Levin argued would now be
Levin noted that he had not received any official request
from Labor representatives to change the name, but presented his own proposal to
change the name to simply “the Labor Party.”
The committee approved that
proposal as well, although Hermesh offered an alternative suggestion that
prompted snickers throughout the room – adding the word “formerly” to the
According to Knesset faction rules, Barak needed to
convince one-third of the members of the Labor faction – or four MKs – to join
his new party. Therefore, there was little legal basis for opposition members or
disgruntled Labor MKs to block the split.
The Independence faction is
expected to receive monthly funding totaling approximately NIS 390,000-NIS
65,000 per MK, as well as an additional NIS 65,000 and funding to employ a
To receive funding as a political party, the faction
must officially establish a party. Funding will then only be available two years
after the Knesset from the preceding general election has officially convened.
Since the current Knesset convened in February 2009, the party’s funds will be
available toward the end of next month.
The implications of the split on
the Knesset’s committee assignments were not immediately clear Monday, as Barak
was still reportedly discussing options with coalition leaders for committee
reassignments, including placing Wilf as a committee chairwoman.