Israel's right-wing defence minister said today that he was leaving the centrist Labour Party and forming a new parliamentary group.
Ehud Barak's decision to quit Labour is likely to strengthen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, which is dominated by fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist parties.
Mr Barak said he will stay in the ruling coalition, along with four followers who joined him.
Labour's eight remaining Knesset members, who had been pushing him to leave the government because of the stalled peace talks, were expected to quit.
By mid-afternoon, two Labour cabinet ministers had gone.
The government is expected to find it easier to dig in on hard-line positions now that these dissenting voices have left.
Labour dominated Israeli politics for the country's first three decades, but it had been reduced to 13 seats in the current parliament.
Many party members hold Mr Barak responsible for the party's demise and accuse him of ditching its socialist views.
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