Barak Officially Launches Breakaway Party Atzmaut

Defense Minister Ehud Barak launches party along with five fellow party members, dozens of supporters in Tel Aviv; 'for the first time since I arrived to politics 15 years ago, I feel free and at ease'.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak officially launched his breakaway party Thursday evening along with four fellow party members and dozens of supporters in Tel Aviv. Barak, as expected, was appointed head of the party.

Barak announced in January that he would be leaving his post as head of the Labor Party, and would be forming a new party, Atzmaut (Independence).

Barak Atzmaut
Nir Keidar

The defense minister explained the move, claiming that he and other Labor members who resigned with him had "reached the conclusion that the time has come to put an end to this anomaly in the political framework, under which there were actually two Labor parties."

Barak spoke light-heartedly at the Thursday event, saying that "in the past two months, for the first time since I arrived to politics 15 years ago, I feel free and at ease."

Barak addressed the dozens of supporters who attended the event, saying he had "good news and bad news". The defense minister said the "bad news is that we are doing terribly in the polls."

But, finding a silver lining in the party's lack of popularity, Barak said "the good news is that we can only go up from here". He added that he had big plans for Atzmaut, which he hoped would develop and grow into a large party.

"There are only 80 people in this room," Barak said, "but this is only the beginning. If each one of you brings another 80, we can get 20 seats [in the next Knesset elections]."

The newly appointed Atzmaut head added that he had committed to create a party list that is comprised of 50% women.

Agriculture Minister, Orit Noked, said Thursday evening that she is "happy to be part of the generation of the party's founders." She added that the party's "aspiration is to take a concrete part in the building of a progressive Israeli reality."