Labor Party Is Falling Down, My Fair Barak

Eitan Cabel kept silent yesterday, and that is already newsworthy. The rebellious Labor Party secretary general, who quit rather than be dismissed, settled for a venomous letter that he sent to party chairman Ehud Barak. "It's not a secretary general that you need, and not a director general, but a janitor," he wrote.

The relations between the two - a source of great media interest over the past month - have now come to their inevitable conclusion. But this is only a parable for the terminal condition of the Labor Party and the political depths to which it has sunk under Barak's leadership.

Next Sunday, the Labor Party convention was due to convene to debate Cabel's dismissal. There were only two possible outcomes if he fought for his position: He could receive a humiliating slap in the face, or he might win. But if so, then what? What would he have done with this victory?

Today, he is a free and happy man. Labor's heavy debts are no longer keeping him awake at night. The failed brand that people were already even sick of joking about is no longer his problem.

Now all that remains is to see whether Barak completes his magnificent victory by convening the convention anyway to change the party bylaws and eliminate the secretary general's position entirely - and perhaps also to defer the party's leadership primary to 2012. No one will keep him doing so, just as no one prevented the captain of the Titanic from reassigning officers and updating the ship's navigational log a moment before it hit the iceberg.

The Labor Party has never been so close to a split. But the last yard is always the hardest. The rebels themselves are split into two factions - Cabel, Amir Peretz, Ophir Pines-Paz and Yuli Tamir in one, Shelly Yachimovich on her own in the other. The glue that binds them is of the treacherous kind, not the kind we would use for the legs of the couch on which we are sitting. Their only common denominator is their disgust for Barak.

Had Yachimovich finally defected to the other camp, it is possible that a new Labor Party would have arisen today. But for now, that is not coming to pass. That is partly because Peretz and Pines have not given up their dream of running for the party leadership, on the assumption that something will be left for them to compete over. But it is also because they need Yachimovich to split legally.

The real question, however, is who really cares about the Labor Party anymore? The Knesset faction is composed of Barak's camp, ministers and deputy ministers who slipped quickly, like a hot knife through butter, into the Netanyahu government and are now going out of their way to praise the new boss and the rival party. Thus whether or not a split eventually occurs, these are the last gasps of what until recently was a large and important party, headed by the founders and builders of the state.

It will be ugly. It will be drawn out. And it will not matter to anyone.