With the Labor Party reeling at the news of Ehud Barak's decision to quit as chairman and form a faction of his own, all of its remaining ministers decided Monday to exit the government.
Political sources believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been contemplating the dismissal of the Labor Party ministers, paving the way for a coalition deal with Barak’s new “Atzmaut” faction.
The Labor ministers - Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman and Trade, Industry and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer - had been seen as unlikely to sign up for a similar agreement and rushed to pre-empt the prime minister.
Herzog was the first to announce his resignation, with Braverman and Ben-Eliezer following suit just a few hours later.
"The time has come to stop lying to ourselves and leave the government which has brought us to a dead-end and forced upon us Avigdor Lieberman and his party with its unacceptable racist discourse, which threatens our democracy,” Herzog said in his announcement.
“I informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of my resignation from the government. This is a personal move," he said, but added that he expected his fellow ministers to follow suit soon.
Braverman made his announcement about an hour later, telling reporters that Labor ministers had made clear to Barak in recent months that the party must not stay in the coalition so long as the impasse in Middle East talks continued.
"Barak forget that he put the peace process at the top of his agenda progress," Braverman said. "This new party would be "Likud A at best and Lieberman B at best," Braverman declared, referring to hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Braverman vowed that Labor would remain intact and return to the strength that once defined it.
Within four hours of Barak;s announcement, Ben-Eliezer called a press conference of his own and became the final Labor minister to resign from the coalition.
In his announcement, Ben-Eliezer also vowed to help rebuild the party. "I have no doubt that the Labor Party will return soon to the headlines.
He added that he had been surprised by Barak's decision. "The truth is that I did not believe that Ehud Barak, who essentially fled the party once, would try to flee again. It's a pity that this is how he is ending his service in the Labor Party," said Ben-Eliezer.
Ben-Eliezer said that assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was "turning over in his grave" in light of the party's dissipation.
While it not yet clear who will take over for Barak as party chairman, Ben-Eliezer made clear that he had no plans to run for leadership of the party."
Barak's departure had initially been welcomed by some of his former colleagues as a long-awaited chance to rebuild the embattled Labor, after months of squabbling within the once all-powerful party. Barak had faced challenges from some senior Labor members and many supporters unhappy over his close ties with Netanyahu.
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