MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen entered the Knesset on Tuesday immediately after President-elect Reuven Rivlin’s victory was announced by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
There had been questions about whether Rivlin’s departure would become official once he was elected, or after he would be sworn in when President Shimon Peres leaves office on July 27. But Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon ruled that if an MK won the election, he would immediately cease serving in the Knesset.
This is the first change in the makeup of the current Knesset, which has lasted longer than any other in Israel’s history without any change in the MKs’ ranks.
Shama-Hacohen, 40, served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2013. He was placed 32nd on the Likud Beytenu list that won 31 seats in the 2013 election.
While in the Knesset, he added Hacohen to his name because it bothered him that people thought he was Druse and not Jewish due to his name.
A lawyer and Likud activist, he ran unsuccessfully in October for mayor of Ramat Gan.
Ironically, Shama-Hacohen entered the Knesset thanks to the work of his nemesis, Likud MK Haim Katz, who was Rivlin’s campaign manager. Shama-Hacohen and Katz fought bitterly in the last Knesset about how to tax profits from natural gas exports.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had considered appointing Shama-Hacohen as an ambassador to enable former Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, who is the next name in the Likud Beytenu list, to enter the Knesset.
Liberman may still pressure Likud Beytenu ministers Uzi Landau and Yair Shamir to quit the Knesset in favor of Miller and former MK Leon Litenetsky, who is after Miller on the list. If that happens, Yisrael Beytenu would rise from 11 to 12 seats, and Likud would fall from 20 to 19 seats – the same number as Yesh Atid.
Had Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit won the race, he would have been replaced in the Knesset by the party’s director-general, former Kadima MK Yoel Hasson.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.