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Likud MK and former Zionist dissident, activist and minister Natan Sharansky intends to announce in upcoming days that he has decided to resign from the Knesset and quit politics, sources close to Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
Sharansky set up a meeting with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu for Wednesday to inform him that after six months of contemplation, he has decided that he no longer wants to remain in the Knesset. He is expected to submit his resignation on Sunday.
Sharansky: From dissident to statesman
A spokeswoman for Sharansky denied the report and said he would be part of the Knesset when it returns for its second session on Monday.
Following the March 28 election, when the Likud dropped to 12 seats from 40 seats in the previous Knesset, Sharansky said publicly that he would have quit the Knesset if it would have enabled his longtime colleague Yuli Edelstein to enter. Edelstein was 15th on the Likud list, behind former MK Haim Katz (No. 13), who will join the Knesset in place of Sharansky, and former MK Uzi Landau (No. 14). Sources close to him said he felt unchallenged and did not see himself as a legislator.
Landau has said he does not want to return to the Knesset, so Edelstein will enter if Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is elected president. Netanyahu reportedly asked Sharansky a few months ago to remain in the Knesset because Katz is a vocal critic of the Likud leader.
Sharansky had one of the worst attendance records in the 17th Knesset's first session.
Following his resignation, Sharansky is expected to return to the Shalem Center, where he served as a "distinguished fellow" when he was neither an MK nor a minister from May 2005 to March 2006. He is likely to return to writing a book about nation states that is intended as a follow-up to his best-seller, The Case for Democracy, which has become part of the doctrine of US President George W. Bush.
As a sign that Sharansky's return to Shalem was imminent, the Jerusalem-based academic institute listed him on its Web site as "on leave" and former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon moved into an office at the center that still says "Natan Sharansky" on the door.
At Shalem's new Institute for International and Middle East Studies, he will work together with Ya'alon and other scholars.
Sharansky recently marked the 20th anniversary of his 1986 release from a Soviet prison where he was held as a prisoner of Zion.
He was first elected to the Knesset in 1996 with his Israel Ba'aliya party, which merged with the Likud three years ago.
Sharansky has served as minister of industry and trade, interior minister, minister of construction and housing and minister-without-portfolio in charge of Diaspora affairs and Jerusalem.