|Founded||17 January 2011|
|Split from||Labor Party (2011)|
|Politics of Israel
Independence (Hebrew: העצמאות, Ha'Atzma'ut) is a political party in Israel. It was launched by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on 17 January 2011 after he and four other Labour Party MKs announced their secession from the caucus. In the words of the announcement, the faction aims to be "centrist, Zionist, and democratic" and to establish itself as a separate political party. Nine days after Barak announced his retirement from politics, it was announced that Independence would not contest the 2013 Knesset elections.
The secession was seen as a pre-emptive move, before other Labor MKs act on their ultimatum to either let Labor leave Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition due to the stalling of a peace process, or force Labour's then-chairman Barak to face the consequences within his own party. Splitting the Labour Party enabled Barak to keep a faction of Labour MKs loyal to him within Netanyahu's coalition, preventing the departure of all 13 Labour MKs from the coalition. As of 17 January 2011, the coalition has the support of 66 out of 120 MKs, as compared to 74 before that. Since Labour was often an unreliable coalition partner in Knesset voting, the reduced number of MKs does not increase the risk of a no-confidence vote. Netanyahu was singled out by analysts as the biggest winner from the split, and was reported to have been involved in the behind-the-scenes making of the political deal. Barak said that he was tired of infighting within Labour as he accused the rest of the Labour of "moving too far to the dovish end of the political spectrum." The more leftist faction was also wary of Barak's closeness to the Prime Minister Netanyahu. Daniel Ben-Simon left the Labour party in protest against Barak's decision to stay with the government.
MK Einat Wilf mentioned in the press conference: "Not all is our fault, some of it is the Palestinians' fault", referring to the argument leading up to the departure of Independence from the Labour Party. Wilf also said that the party could not stay united because one faction was moving towards the "far left of Israeli politics," and the other side believed the current government was an effective partnership. However, the remaining members of Labour condemned the move. Eitan Cabel said it would "destroy the party,” whilst Shelly Yachimovich called it "a corrupt and opportunistic move, designed to save Barak's seat in the government. He has brought a catastrophe upon Labor." Daniel Ben-Simon had stated prior to the split that he would become an independent MK because of Labour's continued position in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Avishai Braverman, Minister of Minorities, and Isaac Herzog, Minister of Social Affairs, also intended to resign following the split.
In a move to avoid the months of bureaucracy involved in registering a new party, Barak negotiated a takeover of the Third Way with its leader Avigdor Kahalani. The Third Way had held seats in the Knesset between 1996 and 1999, and although had effectively ceased functioning after losing them in the 1999 elections, it had remained a registered party. The Knesset Committee approved the request of Independence to take over the Third Way party, a decision needed for it to receive funding from the state.
The founding conference of the party was held in May 2011 with eighty members in attendance. The conference approved the party's statute and the appointment of Barak as chairman. In September 2011 the faction's name was officially changed to "The Independence Party" through the national party registrar. In February 2012 Minister Matan Vilnai resigned his post in the cabinet and the Knesset for the post of being the Israeli Ambassador to China, and Shachiv Shnaan was sworn in instead.
A day after the party's formation, four of its five Knesset members were given ministerial positions; Barak remained Minister of Defence, Vilnai was given the new post of Minister for the Home Front, Noked became Minister of Agriculture and Simhon became Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour and Minister of Minorities. without their party having the benefit of having participating in an election.
Six people represented the party in the Knesset:
- Ehud Barak
- Matan Vilnai – resigned and replaced by Shachiv Shnaan
- Shalom Simhon
- Orit Noked
- Einat Wilf
- Hoffman, Gil; Herb Keinon (17 January 2011). "Barak: New faction to be 'centralist, Zionist, democratic'". jpost.com. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- Barak saved Netanyahu Ynetnews, 17 January 2011
- Netanyahu: Barak's split from Labor strengthens Israel's government Haaretz, 17 January 2011
- Behind the split: Deal between Barak and Netanyahu Yediot Ahronot 17 January 2011 (Hebrew)
- Coalition factions want the portfolios of the Labour Ministers that quit Maariv (video), 17 January 2011 (Hebrew)
- Ben Gedalyahu, Tzvi (17 January 2011). "Barak Splits Labor Party, Will Remain Defense Minister". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Fendel, Hillel (17 January 2011). "Barak Says Labor Pulled Leftward". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Barak readies to launch Independence Party Yediot Ahronot, 9 May 2011
- סיעת העצמאות הופכת למפלגה, Arutz Sheva, 13 April 2011 (Hebrew)
- Barak’s Independence faction now a party The Jerusalem Post, 8 April 2011
- Labor dissidents get 4 portfolios Ynetnews, 18 January 2011
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