Knesset House C’tee okays Barak & Co.’s split from Labor

There was little legal basis for opposition members or disgruntled Labor MKs to block the split.

Labor Party Woes 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Labor Party Woes 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Less than an hour after Defense Minister Ehud Barak completed his press conference announcing his surprise separation from the Labor Party, the House Committee voted to approve the formation of Barak’s new faction, to be called “Independence.”
The committee voted by a majority of 11-3 to approve the request for separation submitted by Barak, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, Deputy Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Orit Noked and MK Einat Wilf.
Simhon looked on as Wilf spoke during the lively meeting to explain the nascent faction’s decision to split from the historic Labor Party – but the party’s second representative on the committee, Daniel Ben-Simon, was glaringly absent from the proceedings, and votes.
Instead, it was Kadima MKs Yohanan Plesner, Yoel Hasson, Shai Hermesh and Rachel Adatto and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz who spoke out against the split.
The confusion among the Labor Party’s remaining members was highlighted when House Committee chairman Yariv Levin pointed out that their Knesset faction’s current official name was “the Labor Party Under the Leadership of Ehud Barak” – a moniker that Levin argued would now be misleading.
Levin noted that he had not received any official request from Labor representatives to change the name, but presented his own proposal to change the name to simply “the Labor Party.”
The committee approved that proposal as well, although Hermesh offered an alternative suggestion that prompted snickers throughout the room – adding the word “formerly” to the faction’s name.
According to Knesset faction rules, Barak needed to convince one-third of the members of the Labor faction – or four MKs – to join his new party. Therefore, there was little legal basis for opposition members or disgruntled Labor MKs to block the split.
The Independence faction is expected to receive monthly funding totaling approximately NIS 390,000-NIS 65,000 per MK, as well as an additional NIS 65,000 and funding to employ a faction manager.
To receive funding as a political party, the faction must officially establish a party. Funding will then only be available two years after the Knesset from the preceding general election has officially convened. Since the current Knesset convened in February 2009, the party’s funds will be available toward the end of next month.
The implications of the split on the Knesset’s committee assignments were not immediately clear Monday, as Barak was still reportedly discussing options with coalition leaders for committee reassignments, including placing Wilf as a committee chairwoman.