(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MKs Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) and Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) tendered their resignation from the Knesset on Wednesday, announcing that they would return to their former careers in education and journalism, respectively.
Piron’s resignation had been expected for months, since Yesh Atid decided against joining the coalition and it became clear he would not return to the cabinet, where he served as education minister in the previous government.
Gal’s departure was more of a surprise, because he was in politics for only nine months.
Shas leader Arye Deri, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon are expected to quit the Knesset at the beginning of next month, due to the passage of the so-called Norwegian Law, which enables a minister from each coalition party to quit the legislature in favor of the next name on their party’s candidate list and return if they quit their cabinet post.
There could be another Likud lawmaker appointed an ambassador and there has been speculation about the end of Yesh Atid MK Ya’acov Peri’s political career for months. A source in Yesh Atid said Peri would likely leave only if and when former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi joins the party, in order to make sure it has a top security figure.
“It is not easy to leave the Knesset, because being an MK was a dream come true,” Piron said at a press conference in the parliament. “My grandparents who were Holocaust survivors could not have known they’d have grandchildren, let alone a member of Knesset and a minister.
Being a Knesset member is a privilege.”
Piron said he was leaving because he wanted to devote his time to advancing education in the periphery, which he said was his major accomplishment as education minister. To that end, he accepted a job heading the education department in Sderot and rented a house in the city that has faced thousands of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Recalling an episode in the Knesset when he laughed uncontrollably, Piron teared up and said he went from laughing to crying. He thanked Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid for bringing him into politics and making him the party’s No. 2 candidate.
Lapid said Piron would remain a central figure in the party, its mentor on rabbi and close to his heart. He praised Piron’s replacement in the Knesset, former Hatnua MK Elazar Stern, who is a former major-general.
“Yesh Atid will continue to be a bridge between different sectors of society as it was with Shai,” Lapid said. “Stern is a big addition on security issues and matters of religion and state.”
Stern said he had mixed feelings about returning to the Knesset, as much of the work he did in the previous Knesset was unceremoniously canceled.
“I am in politics because of the connection between Judaism and democracy,” Stern said at Piron’s press conference.
“Whoever focuses so much on the Iranian threat doesn’t understand that the real threat is internal. If we don’t give Judaism real significance, the Iranian threat won’t matter.”
Minutes after the press conference ended, Yisrael Beytenu announced Gal’s departure.
Gal said he decided he could be more effective in advancing his agenda as a journalist than as an opposition MK. His main accomplishment in the Knesset was sponsoring a bill providing the death penalty for terrorists that got only six votes.
Gal accepted a lucrative job hosting a show about the economy on Channel 20. Political sources said he was facing financial difficulties and that his agenda was often more right-wing than that of the chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, Avigdor Liberman.
Liberman praised Gal upon his departure, saying he was sorry to see him go and accepting that he was following his conscience.
Gal will be replaced in the Knesset by the next name on the Yisrael Beytenu list, former Immigration and Absorption Ministry director-general Oded Forer. Forer is the son of former Rehovot mayor Shuki Forer, and was active in the Likud Youth organization.
In the Likud, MK Sharren Haskel was sworn in Wednesday in place of new ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.
The Knesset voted to approve the appointment of MK Ophir Akunis to replace Danon as science and technology minister.
The parliament overwhelmingly approved the appointment of new health minister Ya’acov Litzman, who became the first Ashkenazi haredi minister since 1952. Lapid, whose petition to the High Court of Justice resulted in Litzman’s promotion from deputy minister, said during the voting that he was voting “very much in favor.