Put this under the category: the Mystifying Doing the Inscrutable. Ehud Barak will announce that he and four other members of the Labor Knesset delegation will leave the party and form a new faction to be called–get this–“Independence” (other suggested names, “The New Center,” the “Jewish Democratic Zionist Center,” what a mouthful!). This is the same guy who is the current chairman of the Party! Two other prominent Labor Party leaders, Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel, are about to jump to Kadima. This, at long last, is the final gasp of the once illustrious party. It’s a Party that Shimon Peres really killed off when he deserted it for Kadima at Ariel Sharon’s behest. Perhaps it was brain dead even before then.
But until Barak finally drove a stake through its heart Labor was walking, zombie-like (sorry for mixing my monster metaphors) through the Israeli political landscape. Now it is dead or will be shortly.
The Labor Party chief seems to have foreseen a vote within the Party to withdraw from the ruling coalition, which would’ve forced Barak to give up his coveted defense ministry portfolio. He made clear that he feels he was driven from the Party by leftists who had no interest in advancing the peace process represented (!) by the current government.
Barak’s betrayal will further splinter the liberal center. In the next election he will be lucky if he saves his own seat. The other three MKs who jumped ship with him don’t have a hope in hell of earning enough votes to get them back into the Knesset.
The death of Labor will strengthen Kadima numerically. But it will most help the Likud, since there will be no principled liberal alternative to it. It will also strengthen Hadash, since it will assume the mantle of the last viable truly progressive Israeli party (I won’t even talk about Meretz, another zombie party–dead party walking).
I would say Barak is like a rat fleeing a sinking ship except that this rat gnawed through the ship’s hull and caused it to sink. Now, he’s only confirming what everyone but him knew all along.