Barak’s Independence faction now a party

Defense minister, his four allies broke off from the Labor Party, are now officially independent; inaugural rally may be held on Independence Day.

Barak speech serious 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )
Barak speech serious 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his four allies who broke off from the Labor Party on January 17 are now officially independent after their faction was formally registered this week with the national party registrar.
Until now, Independence was only a Knesset faction. Were it not formed into a party within three months of the split from Labor, the Knesset would not have been obligated to continue to fund it.
But Independence’s registration had to wait until a deal was reached with Labor formalizing the split, which was only finalized on Sunday after nearly three months of negotiations.
According to the deal, Independence will not take any of Labor’s debts or assets and the two parties will equally divide the NIS 315,000 a month given to a party with five MKs.
The funding will enable the new party to hire staff, build a website and hold an inaugural rally. The new party is expected to adopt the suggestion of Agriculture Minister Orit Noked to symbolically hold the rally on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, which this year falls on May 10.
To ease bureaucracy and save time, Independence adopted the skeleton of the defunct Third Way party, which was led by Yom Kippur War hero Avigdor Kahalani. Golan Regional Council head Eli Malka, who holds the rights to the party, decided to give it to Independence’s Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, who is a close friend.
Independence still has challenges ahead. It must formally change the party’s name from the Third Way to the Independence Party. The change is expected to be challenged by economist Moti Heinrich, who ran unsuccessfully for Knesset on a list under that name in 1981 and 1984 and does not rule out running under the name again.
Heinrich’s party advocated capitalist political ideas that ostensibly are the opposite of what Barak intends to champion in his new party.
He obtained a letter from the party registrar’s office indicating that names of an existing or past party cannot be used without permission.
The Independence faction’s chairwoman, MK Einat Wilf, said the precedent of blocking a party from using a name occurred when voters would have been confused. She said it was unlikely that her party would be confused with one that has not run in 30 years, but just in case, the party might run under the name Independence led by Ehud Barak.
Polls have shown that such a party would have little to no chance of passing the 2-percent electoral threshold. But officials in the new party said it was too early to predict its fate.
Political officials have suggested that the fact that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hired new political strategists last week who once worked with Barak was proof that the two political allies were planning a maneuver to run together in the next election.