The opposition voiced by five Labor Party ministers against proposed changes to the Citizenship Law during yesterday's vote was made possible only after a number of senior party figures lobbied party head Ehud Barak to change his stance and vote nay. Even though Barak himself - who tried to walk the proverbial tightrope in offering his own proposal to add the phrase "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence" - ultimately voted against the measures, his conduct on this issue does not bode well.
As he has done since assuming the chairmanship of the Labor Party, Barak has not held one consultation with his party colleagues.
He has again tried to drag them into political maneuvering that would have left a permanent stain on them and their party.
This is how Barak is leading his party - a weak, crumbling entity devoid of any of its own staked-out positions - to political irrelevance.
It has become nothing more than a tool of the extreme right while using the hackneyed excuse of remaining in the coalition to advance the peace process.
By constantly leaning on this pretext, the Labor ministers are allowing themselves to swallow an endless series of bitter ideological pills all for the sake of a sanctified end.
Yet the responsibility for the party's deterioration does not rest solely on its leader's shoulders. The attempt by Labor ministers to hide behind Barak's miscues - as if they had no influence whatsoever on their party - fools nobody. They are no less at fault.
Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shalom Simhon, and Avishay Braverman will soon be put to the test. They will have to decide whether to hang onto their seats even after the peace process collapses.
Barak will assumedly not give up the Defense Ministry even if the negotiations fail and if this government, which continues to undermine Israel's liberal and democratic foundations, leads the state to another war.
The responsibility for the fate of the Labor Party - and by extension the fate of the vanishing political left - thusly belongs to the ministers and their party colleagues in the Knesset.
In the coming weeks, we will find out whether they have the strength to join the opposition and wage a struggle over the future and character of Israel or whether they prefer to permanently entrench themselves in the extreme and destructive political camp with which they have collaborated in recent years.
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