Exit Barak, enter Israel's progressive politics
The remaining Labor MKs will be able to appeal to voters who want a different Israel that is open to the world and egalitarian, and present them with an alternative to the isolationist nationalism of Netanyahu and Lieberman.
The withdrawal of Ehud Barak and his four supporters from the Labor Party did not spell its end. A Haaretz-Dialog poll published on Thursday showed that Labor still has electoral potential, and it could even reach 10 parliamentary seats in the next elections if it is headed by MK Shelly Yachimovich.
At a meeting of the party bureau, the first since the split, many activists participated after a long absence, and hundreds of new members registered with the party. Fears of an additional split within the Knesset faction proved unfounded for now.
Elections are not imminent, and the new members are more a response to Barak's departure than an organized political campaign. But all signs point to a place for Labor in the Israeli political arena if it reorganizes around a path and a leader, and leads the struggle from the Knesset against the right-wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and his partners, Avigdor Lieberman, Eli Yishai and Ehud Barak.
The weakness of Kadima, which has avoided an ideological debate with Netanyahu, and which houses some members in support of Lieberman's racist bills, gives a big opportunity to a small, unified and determined opposition group.
This is a chance for Labor to rebuild and articulate a unique voice whose absence is felt in the current Knesset. The split frees Labor from the struggle between Barak's opponents and supporters, which dominated its agenda in the past two years.
The eight Knesset members remaining in the faction may be at odds with one another, but they do not disagree over the path. They all support peace with the Palestinians, saving democracy and social justice. If they manage to transcend the personal problems, and especially if they succeed in uniting behind a leader, instead of making his or her life miserable - as they did to all party leaders in the past decade - the senior figures of the Labor Party can establish a real social-democratic movement.
They will be able to appeal to voters who want a different Israel that is open to the world and egalitarian, and present them with an alternative to the isolationist nationalism of Netanyahu and Lieberman. Israel needs such a political body now more than ever, and the Labor Party has an opportunity.
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