A split has emerged in Israel’s once-dominant centre-left political movement.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak has broken away from the Labour party and formed a new faction, but is staying in the government.
Four other MPs have followed Barak and remain in the government, but three Labour ministers have resigned. More resignations are expected.
Barak had been facing pressure within Labour to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning government to move faster towards a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Despite the surprise news, the prime minister maintains his government is now stronger because of Labour’s break-up
He said the world and the Palestinians know that his government will be around for the next few years and it is with them they should negotiate.
Barak was the main architect of Israel’s offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip two years ago.