(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Welfare and Social
Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman
all submitted their resignation letters to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on
Monday, ending speculation about whether any of the eight remaining Labor MKs
would remain in the coalition.
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In three separate press conferences in
Labor’s faction room in the Knesset, all three ministers said party chairman
Ehud Barak’s decision to break off from Labor with four allies took them
completely by surprise.
They all said they had no idea when they woke up
in the morning that by the afternoon they would submit resignation letters,
which take effect on Wednesday.
All three soon-to-be former ministers
criticized the move of Barak and his allies and said that former Labor chairman
Yitzhak Rabin, whose picture hangs on the wall in the room, would be similarly
“The public will know how to judge them,” Ben-Eliezer said.
“Labor has had its ups and downs, and I have no doubt that Labor will return to
what it once was.”
Ben-Eliezer hinted that he would accept a proposal by
Braverman to become temporary chairman of Labor until a vote is held to succeed
He said he would do whatever was necessary to help rehabilitate
the party and aide Labor’s next leader.
Barak’s associates said Ben-
Eliezer unwittingly helped initiate the split in the party by insisting on a
Labor convention that would have held a vote on leaving Netanyahu’s coalition
and advancing a race for Labor chairman.
Ben-Eliezer said he made a
mistake by supporting Barak, but not by entering the government.
it was right to join the coalition in order to pressure Netanyahu to take
diplomatic steps and that he still hoped the prime minister would advance the
Braverman expressed hope that Labor would end up getting
strengthened by the split.
He bashed Barak for staying in a government
that does not promote the ideals of the voters who elected him.
crisis there is an opportunity,” Braverman said.
“The main problem of
Labor is that it didn’t stand up for its ideals. Barak decided to support Likud
and [Avigdor] Lieberman instead of fighting for the values of Labor. [Ariel]
Sharon left Likud to advance peace.
“Barak is splitting from Labor to be
a second-rate Likud at best and another Lieberman at worst.”
will face off against Herzog for the Labor leadership. MK Shelly Yacimovich and
former Labor chairman Amram Mitzna have not ruled out running as
Herzog expressed relief that Barak left Labor. He accused Barak and
his allies of being less concerned about the interests of the Labor Party than
their own personal Labor situation.
“The days of this party acting
according to the interests and machinations of one man are over,” Herzog said.
“I spoke to party officials about keeping the party united and deciding on a
date for the primary. Labor today returns to be a political home even for the
people who felt betrayed by it.”
Herzog expressed mixed emotions about
leaving the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry after four years. He complained
that Barak refused his repeated requests to have the party advance a
“Labor will go to the opposition and be healed,”
Herzog predicted. “We will serve the people who elected us 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.”