New ‘Atzmaut’ party receives four portfolios in coalition deal

According to an agreement negotiated overnight, Ehud Barak’s newly formed Atzmaut is to hold four ministerial portfolios in the coalition government. Ehud Barak will remain as Minister of Defence. Matan Vilnai will remain in the Defence Ministry with responsibility for homeland security and will also be minister for minorities. Shalom Simhon will become Minister for Trade and Labour and Orit Noked will become Minister for Agriculture. The fifth member of the new faction, Einat Wilf, will serve as faction chair and will head a Knesset committee.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that Ehud Barak splitting from the Labour party will strengthen Israel’s coalition government. “The whole world knows, and the Palestinians know, that this government will be around for the next few years and that it is with this government that they should negotiate for peace,” Netanyahu told reporters.

Three Labour ministers, Minister of Social Affairs Isaac Herzog, Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman and Trade, Industry and Labour Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, handed in their resignation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government yesterday. All were critical of Barak’s decision to leave the party, and said that the split created an opportunity for Labour to rebuild. Four of the remaining Labour MKs, Amir Peretz, Daniel Ben-Simon, Eitan Cabel, Raleb Majadle, are to meet today to decide whether to remain in Labour or form their own separate faction.

Further reading – BICOM Briefing: The Israeli Labour Party Split – 17/1/2011