Independence faction 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Coalition negotiations between the Likud and the newly formed Independence faction yielded an agreement Tuesday morning .
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The sides agreed upon who would replace the three Labor ministers who resigned from the government on Monday: Industry,
Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, Welfare and Social Services
Minister Isaac Herzog and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay
Ehud Barak will retain his role of defense minister as part of the deal.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, will be promoted to Ben-Eliezer’s job, and
Ben-Eliezer’s current deputy Orit Noked, who represents Labor’s kibbutz sector,
will replace Simhon.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i will keep his
present responsibilities for the home front while being promoted to minority
MK Einat Wilf, who is on maternity leave, will chair
the Independence faction and will become chairwoman of The Immigration and Absorption Ministry. She will also become chairwoman of the Knesset Education Committee.
Shas asked to
receive the Welfare and Social Services portfolio, but Netanyahu intends to keep
it for the Likud. He will hold the post for a few weeks and then bestow it upon
a Likud minister-without-portfolio, deputy minister or MK who proves his or her
The deal will be brought
to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, when the three departing
ministers’ resignations take effect.
On Monday, Barak ended an era when he announced at a
surprising Knesset press conference that he and four of his allies were leaving
the Labor Party and forming a new faction called Independence.
his allies said they could no longer function in Labor due to the constant
threats by ministers and MKs to break up the party if it did not leave Netanyahu’s coalition.
In meetings over the past two
weeks at Netanyahu’s residences in Jerusalem and Caesarea, Barak, the prime
minister and his chief of staff Natan Eshel hatched the plan to split Labor,
which they kept a closely guarded secret until Monday
Netanyahu’s associates denied reports that he had promised Barak
he would enable him to run on the Likud’s list for the next Knesset.Netanyahu: Government has become 'much stronger'
The prime minister told the Likud faction that his government had ironically become “much
stronger” with the departure of eight Labor MKs from the coalition, because the
remaining 66 coalition lawmakers still wanted to be a part of it. He said this
would convey to the international community that his government was stable, and
there was no point in waiting for it to fall.
“The entire world knows,
and so do the Palestinians, that this government will be here for the coming
years, and it is with this government that it will have to conduct the peace
process,” Netanyahu said. “I want to have [a peace process] and advance it on
the basis of promoting our interests of achieving security and
Netanyahu thanked the ministers who quit and said that despite
their political disagreements, he had enjoyed working with them. He praised them
for what he said were their many professional accomplishments.
press conference, Barak said he had never intended to leave Labor and that he
loved many of the party’s people, but that he was tired of apologizing for
remaining in the government.
He compared himself to former prime
ministers David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon, who all left
political parties and formed new ones.
“We are leaving today to
independence,” Barak said. “We are leaving to a faction, movement and –
eventually – a party that will be centrist, Zionist and democratic and
according to the legacy of Ben-Gurion.”
Barak denounced his critics in
Labor who he said wanted it to go more and more to the Left. Wilf said
MKs had decided that the best way to advance the diplomatic process was
Simhon, who has chaired the Labor faction over the
past year, said it had become four or five separate factions acting
independently. He said that at times, he was the only Labor MK voting
“People ask if we are destroying Labor,” Simhon said. “We
aren’t destroying Labor.
Labor was destroyed when a minority group
refused to accept a decision of 2,500 members at a Labor convention [to