From my viewpoint, this picture by Tess Scheflan perfectly encapsulates Ehud Barak’s actions.

According to varied reports, Labor is either like Tunisia, “divided into militias,” or an ameba, take your pick.

One thing Ehud Barak quitting Labor and forming Atzmaut means is that the hardliners against negotiations with the Palestinians are in charge until we see the next move in this act.

But I guess Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is breathing a little easier today, especially if you listen to his adversaries inside the Israeli Knesset. Having Ehud Barak leave Labor to form his own “Independent” faction is a lot better than seeing your own government collapse, but also consolidates the hardliners. I think Netanyahu is underestimating Barak, but who isn’t at this point in his career? From Haaretz:

“We set out today toward independence,” the 68-year-old Barak said in his official announcement at the Knesset. “We are creating a faction, a movement and eventually a party that will be centrist, Zionist and democratic.”

“The top priority [of this movement] will be first and foremost the state, then the party, and only at the end, us,” Barak told reporters. “We invite anyone who believes in this path to join.”

“The State of Israel is faced with tests that are not simple” with regard to policy, defense and society, Barak said, declaring: “We are ready to confront these.”

Tzipi Livni’s response is below.

Livni told a Kadima meeting that, “This is a bad day for the Netanyahu government but I believe it’s also a hopeful day for Israel.”

She added, “Today, clearer than ever, we’ve seen which representatives use shady political wielding, and which are our representatives of truth. Netanyahu’s government is a narrow government that falls apart from the inside, lacking any other choice, due to political decay and an absence of either a vision or path.”

“Today, Kadima again calls out loud, crystal clear and stronger than ever, for elections,” Livni added.

“We will continue and work according to our principles, our values, and we will guard and advance our vision, defend democracy and the Israeli public from this awful government,” she stated. “This government today needs to return the choice to the people and initiate new elections. This time not only will we win in the elections but we will also lead the next government.”

The rest of the JPost article is filled with invectives including comparing Labor to “naked spineless, invertebrate mollusks,” and statements showing a general freak out amidst Kadima MKs.

Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner said “it is a sad day – a day which brought the end of a party that established the state of Israel – and a day in which the political culture in Israel reached a new low of filth and loathing. It is now clear that the only legacy of the Netanyahu government is of political dealing and buying fragments of parties at the expense of the national interest,” he said.

All this has a back drop of Ms. Livni’s recent accusations about the Netanyahu-Lieberman government’s actions to investigate the funding of civil and human rights groups.

Her party, Kadima, would oppose the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into groups such as B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights, she said. Her comments followed an attack by the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose party sponsored the bill, on rightwing opponents of the measure. He said they had “bleeding hearts” and were harming the “national camp”.

In a statement Livni said: “An evil spirit has been sweeping over the country, and it is our duty to stand up against this wave. Kadima cannot be a passive participant in this process; our public duty is not to be part of such a thing and stand against it “¦ Those sparking the flames are the members of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government, whether silently or in complicity with elements in the Knesset [parliament].”

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government is dependent on the support of Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman’s party, and many commentators say the extreme right in his coalition is making the running on policy. The centrist Kadima party has refused to join the coalition while it contains Yisrael Beiteinu.

As well as citing the bill passed by a large majority last week to set up an investigation into the funding of rights organisations, Livni pointed to a video death threat issued against deputy state prosecutor Shal Nitzan for investigating two racist, anti-Arab Facebook groups. Netanyahu called for a police investigation into the video.

On another angle, SecyClintonBlog, who also has a post up on this subject, and I chatted briefly about Jennifer Rubin’s post today on anti-Semitism. But you should be forewarned to take Dramamine before reading it, as getting hooked into anything Rubin writes on Israel – Palestinian issues is taking a ride on a Middle East hamster wheel. You invariably end up at the “what the consequences are for those countries if they perpetuate anti-Semitism” and “alleged ‘Islamaphobia'” stalemate that should make anyone queasy.

The hard right line of Netanyahu-Lieberman, with Livni paralyzed, gives Ehud Barak an opportunity, especially since he’s stressing security, minus the thug tactics of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government. I utilize the conflation of these men because Netanyahu cannot prevail without Lieberman, which should tell you a lot about the situation in Israel on any number of fronts. It’s just one reason, post midterms and looking to ’12, I don’t think talks will amount to anything. Israel’s waited this long and after the settlement freeze fiasco Netanyahu-Lieberman have nothing to lose by waiting out and hoping Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee or someone Israeli centric will take over in ’12.

It’s also why in the light of what’s happening in Tunisia, but also Algeria, Mark Lynch may be on to something, at least as far as the action being on the Arab side.

If these protests continue to spread, both inside of countries and across to other Arab countries, then we really could talk about this being Obama’s “Arab Spring,” only with the extra intensity associated with climate change. Arab regimes will do everything they can to prevent that from happening. Most everybody is carefully watching everyone else to see what’s going to happen, with news traveling across borders and within countries through an ever-growing role for social media layered on top of (not replacing) satellite television and existing networks. I’m not hugely optimistic that we will see real change, given the power of these authoritarian regimes and their record of resilience. But still… interesting times.

The reason I’m skeptical about an “Arab spring,” to use Lynch’s words, is that back in my world of political analysis, especially when it meets foreign policy, I just don’t think Bill Daley and David Plouffe will encourage Pres. Obama to go out on a limb on foreign policy to support anything Arab, spring or otherwise. In practical political terms we’ve entered the season of the conservative Blue Dog reign, a place where nothing progressive grows.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall writes about what seems to me the obvious reality of the Israeli Labour Party finally fizzling out with Ehud Barak’s move today.