(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shinui leader Yosef "Tommy" Lapid resigned on Wednesday from the party he brought to national prominence.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party, according to Lapid, entered a political niche formerly occupied by Shinui, and caused Shinui to fall back in the polls.
Despite the fact that the Shinui Knesset list was chosen democratically, Lapid said in a Tel Aviv press conference, it was a list of people he didn't believe in, and therefore, "with great regret," he was resigning from the party.
"Shinui, in its present incarnation, doesn't deserve the public's faith," Lapid declared in a press conference.
"A burden has been lifted off my shoulders," said Lapid Wednesday night in a Channel 2 interview.
In the interview, he explained that the reason he had quit Shinui was the lack of experience of those on the party list. "I can't go to the liberal and educated public with such a list!"
"I accept that they were chosen according to the law, and it is their right to run for Knesset. But I, personally, can't be forced to lead them; to recommend these people when I don't believe in them...this is not a [losing] politician's vengeance," said Lapid.
Lapid further explained that his party's centrist niche had been usurped by Kadima, but added that "there may still be a chance to get into the Knesset if a new centrist, liberal party forms with Poraz and other experienced MKs."
When asked what his plans were now that he had quit Shinui, Lapid replied, "I think that I'll remain in public life, though I still don't know what I'll do."
According to an agreement expected to be reached in Shinui, the resigning parliamentarians would take with them one-third of funds, while the remaining party would retain the other two-thirds.
The fate of Shinui's NIS 11 million was to be determined between Former Shinui second-in-command MK Avraham Poraz and remaining party members Ilan Leibovitch and Ehud Rassabi.
Poraz left Shinui after suffering a tremendous upset in the internal elections, losing the No. 2 seat on the 18-member party list to Ron Lowenthal, Shinui leader on the Tel Aviv city council, 93-72. Ahead of the elections there were indications that Lapid would leave the party if Poraz lost.
Lapid faced his own leadership challenge, garnering a mere 87 votes to the 62 of his competitor, Isaac Gilad.
After winning the first vote of the evening, Lapid dismissed the close showing by his rival and said that the competition merely highlighted the 'democratic' nature of Shinui.
Recent polls revealed on Channel 1 showed that Shinui was not expected to get enough votes to have any representation in the 17th Knesset.
Immediately after his victory, which he termed a 'revolution,' Lowenthal indicated he wanted Lapid to stay on as party chairman.
"I really hope that Tommy Lapid will stay with us," he said. "It's not logical that a leader like Tommy Lapid will leave because of me."
A lawyer, Lowenthal, 35, was able to unite a Shinui opposition that chafed at earlier proposals by Lapid and Poraz that the party keep the same list as in the current Knesset and because it blamed the leadership for Shinui's plunge in the polls.