The Labor Party took another step toward the precipice on Sunday night when its four rebellious MKs formed a new movement called the Democratic Stage, at a political rally in Tel Aviv's ZOA House.
But the four rebels who ascended the stage still cannot democratically split the party, because they have not yet obtained the support of the fifth lawmaker required for a legal break-off that would be eligible for public funds.
Freshman MK Daniel Ben-Simon, who quit the Labor faction chairmanship two weeks ago, surprisingly attended the event and was received with applause. But Ben-Simon disappointed the rebels and their 300 supporters in the packed auditorium when he announced that he would make one last effort to save the ailing party.
"I am here to give Labor one last chance before it dies," Ben-Simon said. "If in the next two or three months before the movement meets again, things don't improve, it will be time for a new party. There is no reason to hurry. Let's give Labor another chance, but if it doesn't work, we can let a new party arise."
Ben-Simon told The Jerusalem Post after the event that during the next three months, he would make a serious effort to fix the party's problems and push the government toward Labor's positions. He said that if progress was not made in advancing peace and social justice during that time, and yet Labor remained part of the coalition, he would join the rebels in forming a new opposition party.
"I decided to give Labor three months of reflection and new thinking about its future in the coalition," Ben-Simon said. "If Labor's ideology is not carried out in the next three months I will have to rethink my position in Labor. My way is not the way this coalition is going."
MK Ophir Paz-Pines called Ben-Simon's words "touching" and expressed hope that he would indeed keep his promise. Paz-Pines said he believed the peace camp could still be saved with the proper leadership.
"We are missing a historic opportunity to advance peace at a time when there is no terror," Paz-Pines said. "We are missing the opportunity given to us by President Obama, who can advance change that we are not afraid of. He could make the Arab world make sacrifices that they have not made in the past."
But while Paz-Pines left open the possibility of causing a last-minute change in Labor that could "save its remaining self-respect and prevent its proud legacy from falling to the depths, his comrade in the rebel ranks, MK Eitan Cabel, already delivered a eulogy.
"I must say with a heavy heart that Labor has completed its historic path," Cabel said.
MK Yuli Tamir mocked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his troubles in getting a meeting with Obama. He said Israel's image had been harmed around the world by Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and called Labor's cabinet ministers "a fig leaf for a right-wing government."
Much of the auditorium was filled by supporters of rebel MK Amir Peretz's former party Am Ehad, who could build the infrastructure of a new party if the Democratic Stage develops into one.
Labor leader Ehud Barak's associates expressed confidence that Labor would survive its current crisis. They noted that just last week, the party's executive committee appointed a team to mediate with the rebels.
"The chairman will continue to work for unity, but all Labor MKs must accept the decisions of the party's institutions and no one will get away with making up his own rules based on his own convenience," a Barak associate said.
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