Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak leaves Labour Party (UPDATE)
(previous news was posted at 12:03)
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday that he was leaving the party he has headed since 2007, throwing the country's political system into turmoil, DPA reported.
Addressing a news conference at parliament in Jerusalem, Barak said he and four other Labour Party legislators, three of them ministers or deputy ministers, were forming a new faction to be called Atzmaut (Independence.)
The departure of the five will leave Labour, in its previous incarnations Israel's natural party of government, with only eight lawmakers in the 120-set parliament.
Barak's departure comes amid increasing discontent with his leadership, and calls by some dovish Labour Party legislators for the party to leave the governing coalition in the absence of any concrete peace process with the Palestinians.
Israel Radio reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been fully aware of Barak's decision to split from the party. He was quoted as saying the move would bring "stability' to the coalition."