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(photo credit: AP [file])
The four Labor Party rebel MKs will convene Sunday to consider breaking off and starting a new party after Labor chairman Ehud Barak dared them to leave.
MKs Eitan Cabel, Ophir Paz-Pines, Amir Peretz and Yuli Tamir would need a fifth legislator to obtain the third of the faction necessary to split legally, but there is no additional rebel on the horizon after Barak obtained the support of the rest of the faction for the party's new constitution at Wednesday's Labor convention.
So instead the four rebels will consider splitting off illegally in a move that involves paying a hefty price. None of the four would be allowed to run for the next Knesset with an existing party, they would not receive state funding, and they would have to pay their share of Labor's NIS 80 million in debt.
"We would not allow money to prevent the split from happening," a spokesman for the rebels said. "We are sick and tired of being part of a party where we no longer fit ideologically. That's why we will unite and tell Barak: 'Let my people go.'"
The rebels will seek to appoint a mediator between them and Barak, such as former justice minister David Liba'i, to negotiate terms of their departure.
"There are ways of Barak letting us leave on good terms," Paz-Pines said. "Instead of an ugly divorce, it can be handled respectfully. It could be that that's what has to happen."
The rebel lawmakers said they did not want to remain in the purgatory of being neither in the coalition nor in the opposition. They were upset by Barak's plans to impose parliamentary sanctions on them.
Barak will reportedly soon introduce a new disciplinary code including sanctions, such as preventing MKs from speaking in the Knesset plenum speeches and submitting bills. Those who defy party decisions could also be prevented from running with Labor in the next general election.
In an interview with Army Radio's Ilana Dayan on Thursday, Barak said that if the rebel MKs wanted to leave the party, they were more than welcome, as long as they returned their mandates and allowed the next names on the Labor candidates list to enter the Knesset in their stead.
"I am not saying that they can't leave," the Labor chairman said. "I think that it's more appropriate, if members decide that they have lost their faith in [those who voted them in], it would be more appropriate if they returned their mandate, as [former Labor MK] Ephraim Sneh did. We very much want them to [come back into the fold], and I will do everything I can to make that happen," he added.
"But we still cannot accept the principle that people will act however they see fit. If reality continues in this direction, it would constitute undemocratic behavior which doesn't conform to the public morals of the party."
Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.