Middle East

Israeli papers slam Ehud Barak's "Independence" move

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announces to media he is leaving the Labour party
Image caption Is Mr Barak's career now over?

Some Israeli papers see Defence Minister Ehud Barak's dramatic defection from the Labour party - which he has led since 2007 - to form the Atzmaut (Independence) faction as the death knell of his political career.

Others are more concerned by the resulting shift in the balance of power in the country's fragile coalition government which they fear will put the right-wing Shas Party in the driving seat.

However, one commentator believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is behind the manoeuvre.

NAHUM BARNEA IN YEDIOT AHARONOT

The Labour Party died in 2000 but it was buried only yesterday... Barak's pre-emptive move saved Netanyahu's government from an almost certain fall... Not only was the government saved, but also Barak. A Labour exit from the government would have led, sooner or later, to his deposition from the party's leadership.

SHALOM YERUSHALMI IN MA'ARIV

Yesterday Barak finally liquidated the Labour Party, and along the way, also the career of three ministers and perhaps of another five Knesset members from Labour... However, Barak also killed himself politically. No-one takes Atzmaut, the party he established, seriously, not even Barak himself. No-one thinks that he will really run in the next elections.

SIMA KADMON IN YEDIOT AHARONOT

The opinion poll... held yesterday evening shows that if the elections were held today, only half of those who voted Labour in the last elections would have supported it... and only one tenth of them would have supported Barak's new party - Atzmaut.

EDITORIAL IN JERUSALEM POST

Ehud Barak's announcement... has left a once illustrious political party... in shambles. It has also strengthened Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's hand - by eliminating fears that all of Labour's 13 MKs would leave the coalition... though the coalition, reduced to 66 members, is now unprecedentedly vulnerable to potential extortion by one or other of its constituent parties... Barak's defection is a hammer blow, but it is also emblematic of a deeper ideological crisis on the Left, and not just in Israel.

YOSSI VERTER IN HA'ARETZ

Yesterday's manoeuvre won't win Barak any points with the Israeli public, but his image here is already at rock bottom anyway. What remains to be seen is the impact on his image... overseas. One can confidently predict that world leaders won't be applauding. He portrayed himself as a moderate voice in Netanyahu's ear, but in practice, he bolstered the government's most right-wing elements... With his own hands, he has made the government a more extremist right-wing one.

GIDEON LEVY IN HA'ARETZ

He officially turned Israel into the only state in the West, not counting the United States, that lacks a Labour party, a Socio-Democrat party or a left wing... Almost all there is in Israel is an ultra-nationalist right, comprised of parties that have various names: Likud, Kadima, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, National Union; yesterday, Atzmaut (Independence) joined them.

EDITORIAL IN HA'ARETZ

By resigning... Barak has pre-empted his rivals, who were striving to remove him from the cabinet or the party. Taking the initiative gives him a momentary tactical advantage. But it does not change the result - Israel is ruled today by an extreme rightist government that objects to any compromise in the peace process... Now, as Barak likes to say, the masks have been taken off.

BEN KASPIT IN MA'ARIV

Netanyahu is linked again to division... First he tried to split Kadima (and failed), now he has tried to split Labour (and succeeded)... Suddenly, Netanyahu's government is not a unity government, and instead of the Labour Party on the left, Netanyahu will find himself with one, Ehud Barak, who represents no one other than himself, in the capacity of a used fig leaf.

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