(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit announced his departure from the Knesset after 41 years in public office at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Appearing both resolute in his decision and humble, Sheetrit, 66, said, “I plan to leave the Knesset after the end of this term, which will be my ninth. I’m stepping aside for a younger – and hopefully more successful – generation to replace me.”
“I said, ‘Enough! 41 years is enough,’” he joked.
Sheetrit is the most recent Hatnua lawmaker to bow out of politics, following the sudden departures of MKs David Tsur, Amram Mitzna and Elazar Stern after party head Tzipi Livni decided to join forces with Labor’s Isaac Herzog, leaving Livni and MK Amir Peretz the sole Hatnua members running in places in the next Knesset.
Striking a diplomatic tone, Sheetrit was blunt in his criticism of Livni’s decision but avoided condemning her.
“I don’t have huge differences of opinion with Tzipi Livni, but I think the direction she is going in is not the right one,” he said.
“She was the head of the party, we entrusted her with a lot of responsibility and she made this decision, which is her right. I, personally, happen to not agree with it,” he said.
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Sheetrit explained that he not only disagreed with the partnership with Labor, but with her method of forming that alliance. “It’s not just uniting [with Herzog], but the way she did it. She did it alone, with no consultation,” he explained.
“I respect the work of Tzipi Livni and her efforts to get a new party off the ground. It is important to acknowledge the religious and political extremists she faced in the government that prevented the passing of important initiatives... I wish her the best of luck and hope she can bring peace,” he added.
Dedicating much of his remarks to his long history of public service, Sheetrit said he is proud to leave politics with his head held high.
“I spent my entire life being honest and not playing dirty politics, because of my love for the country and the public,” Sheetrit said of his work in the Likud, Kadima and Hatnua.
Sheetrit, who was born in Morocco in 1948 and immigrated to Israel in 1957, was mayor of Yavne from 1974 to 1987. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1981. Over the years, he held seven different cabinet portfolios.
Ending his political career on a hopeful note, Sheetrit said, “I hope the next elections will bring forth a new government that will further the peace process and spotlight other important and burning issues.... If we will have a courageous and determined government, it will succeed in overcoming security, social and economic obstacles.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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