Three Labor ministers submit resignation letters

Party’s remaining 5 MKs will also leave coalition.

Herzog 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Herzog 311
(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.
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.
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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 disgusted.
“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 Barak.
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.
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Ben-Eliezer said he made a mistake by supporting Barak, but not by entering the government.
He said 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 peace process.
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.
“In every 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.”
Braverman will face off against Herzog for the Labor leadership. MK Shelly Yacimovich and former Labor chairman Amram Mitzna have not ruled out running as well.
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 socioeconomic agenda.
“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.”