Sa'ar resigns from Knesset, hints he may come back

Interior Minister's resignation will go into effect in 48 hours, and he will be replaced by Leon Litinetsky of Yisrael Beytenu.

November 3, 2014 12:37
4 minute read.
Gideon Sa'ar (Center) says goodbye to the Knesset, November 3, 2014.

Gideon Sa'ar (Center) says goodbye to the Knesset, November 3, 2014. . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Gideon Sa’ar tendered his resignation from the legislature to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Monday, a day after he left his position as interior minister.

In what may be a hint to his future plans to return to politics, Sa’ar said, smiling: “Maybe we will meet again.”

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Sa’ar announced two months ago that he was taking a break from politics to spend more time with his family.

“This is an exciting day, after 12 years and four terms in the Knesset in which I had the privilege of serving the country,” Sa’ar told Edelstein. “I am submitting my resignation letter from the 19th Knesset today and starting a new path, facing the future. There is always tomorrow.”

Edelstein responded that he is always happy to see Sa’ar, but not under these circumstances.

“It is clear that the Knesset is losing one of its best parliamentarians ever. You were an excellent lawmaker and an example for others,” he said.

Edelstein told Sa’ar he would always be welcome to visit the Knesset Speaker’s office.

Later, speaking to the Knesset, Edelstein said he is certain that the country will once again enjoy Sa’ar’s contributions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sang Sa’ar’s praises in his speech, despite the souring of their relationship.

Netanyahu emphasized Sa’ar’s ability to bring results in all of his positions, whether as Likud faction chairman when the party was in the opposition, as education minister, or as interior minister.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) had a political message, in addition to praise for the departing politician: “If Netanyahu has so many good things to say about Sa’ar, why is he letting him go? This is a clear sign this government is crumbling. While you wait for [your son] David to walk, the coalition will fall apart.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett wished that Sa’ar would come back once his son can ride a bicycle.

“After bringing your son to preschool a few times, you’ll want to return,” Bennett quipped.

Sa’ar compared himself to Baloo in The Jungle Book, who played dead in order to hear his eulogies, and when they finished demanded that his friends compliment him more.

Then, rather than wait for more praise from his friends, Sa’ar listed his own achievements at length, including establishing the university in Ariel and postponing daylight saving time after years of controversy on the matter, and said he never went against the ideology for which he was elected to the Knesset, including opposition to the 2005 Gaza disengagement.

In an apparent dig at Netanyahu, Sa’ar said: “It is important to manage crises, but what is most important is to make decisions. That is why we were elected. The nation expects decisions and results from the Knesset and the government. We need to talk less and do more. We cannot walk in place.”

The departing MK also strongly praised Herzog as professional and talented, and warmly thanked Bennett and Edelstein at length for their kind words, but only tersely expressed gratitude to Netanyahu for appointing him to two ministerial jobs.

Sa’ar’s resignation will go into effect on Wednesday, and he will be replaced in the Knesset by Leon Litinetsky of Yisrael Beytenu, who is next on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list that ran for the Knesset and split earlier this year.

As such, the Likud will have only 18 MKs, making it the second-largest party in the coalition, after Yesh Atid’s 19. Yisrael Beytenu will grow to 13 seats.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid addressed the change at a Yesh Atid faction meeting, saying it is a “privilege and responsibility” for his party to have the biggest faction in the Knesset.

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan is expected to replace Sa’ar as interior minister, after Netanyahu proposed to him to become interior minister and continue being responsible for the Israel Broadcast Authority, which he began overhauling this year.

However, Erdan has yet to announce his decision, since Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman offered him the job of ambassador to the UN, once Ron Prosor leaves his post in January. Still, Sa’ar looked at Erdan when referring to the next interior minister in his speech, and Edelstein called him “the next interior minister, God willing.”

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing battle in the Likud as to who will become communications minister, since Erdan’s departure from the job seems certain. Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat is thought to be eyeing the position as a step up from where she is now. Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin and MK Gila Gamliel each say Netanyahu promised to give him or her the next ministry open to the Likud.

The prime minister is not in a hurry to make a decision on the matter until after the Likud leadership primary in December or January, which is apparently a strategy to ensure he will have MKs’ loyalty and help in the race.

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