On Thursday the new party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Atzmaut, will be inaugurated in Tel Aviv. Four months after breaking away from the Labor Party which he was leading, Barak decided on the day after Independence Day to launch his new party - Atzmaut means "independence" in Hebrew.

While Labor is in the midst of the process for selecting a new leader, the founding council of Atzmaut is expected to select Barak as party chairman by a majority vote. The council includes five members of the Atzmaut faction, four of whom are ministers in the coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu: Barak, Matan Vilnai, Shalom Simhon and Orit Noked. In addition to them, all having departed from the ranks of Labor, are MK Einat Wilf and several dozen former Labor activists.

Barak is scheduled to give an inaugural address, as will the faction's other Knesset members. The event is called a "founding conference" of the new party, which public opinion polls suggest will not be able to pass the voting threshold and enter the Knesset were elections are to be held Monday.

However, sources in the new faction say that they have poll results that show other trends, and say they intend to run in the next election as a party.

At the founding conference the council members will approve the constitution and party line, a draft of which was prepared by MK Wilf and is awaiting Barak's approval.

Contrary to Labor, which describes itself as a social-democratic party, Atzmaut describes itself as "mainstream Zionist." The party's constitution grants great authority to members of the faction and its chairman, so that Barak will not have to deal with internal issues, infighting and having to turn to the party's legal institutions on procedural matters - the bane of his existence as Labor head.

In six weeks the party is due to hold its first political meeting, designed to serve as its show of force in Israeli politics.