(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch became the third senior figure in Yisrael Beytenu in two week to announce his departure from politics when he released a statement on Friday afternoon.
Aharonovitch followed Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who retired two weeks ago, and Knesset Law and Constitution Committee chairman David Rotem, who quit on Tuesday. In recent polls, the party has fallen from 13 seats in the outgoing Knesset to five to seven.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has reportedly expressed a desire for a very different list in the March 17 election.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis is expected to be promoted to a top slot, and journalist Sharon Gal last week joined the party.
Party officials denied a report in Makor Rishon that Liberman was trying to bring Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland into the party. The political fates of Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum also remain unclear.
Aharonovitch had been kept unaware of the scandal that rocked the party. He faced criticism for the failure of the police to stop Arab violence in Jerusalem and northern Israel in recent months.
In Friday’s statement, Aharonovitch said he told Liberman on Thursday that he wanted to retire after eight years in the Knesset, six of which he served in his current post, and 32 years serving in the IDF and the police, where he rose to command the Border Police and serve as a deputy chief of the national force. He said he had entered politics to make a difference and believed he had accomplished his goal.
“I had the honor of being a part of complex professional processes and advancing the ministries I headed,” he said. “I also had the honor of making decisions on socioeconomic, security and diplomatic issues while looking out for the best interests of Israel. I am thankful for that privilege.”
Aharonovitch’s departure is seen as coming at Liberman’s request. Aharonovitch told Yediot Aharonot in a story published on Friday before he announced is retirement that he would stay if Liberman wanted him to.
Liberman released a statement in which he thanked Aharonovitch for his service to the party in the Knesset and the cabinet, and said the minister had made a significant contribution to Israel and its security.
“Aharonovitch is an officer and a gentleman,” he said. “But even the best soccer player in the world understands that the time comes when he has to hang up his shoes.”
The Yisrael Beytenu leader told Channel 2 that he would reveal his party’s Knesset list on January 19.