Former political enemies rushed on Thursday to express their regret at MK Ophir Paz-Pines's announcement that his 13-year Knesset career, and decades-long affiliation with the Labor Party, has come to an end.
Likud and Kadima officials including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), Public Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) and opposition Leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) led the list of those who complimented the former Labor activist for his intensive parliamentary work and personal integrity.
Paz-Pines failed year after year to achieve his goal of becoming the chairman of the party that he had supported since his student days, but was the second-polling candidate in the most recent party primary, and a leading candidate to replace Labor chairman Ehud Barak in every public opinion poll carried out since.
Nevertheless, the veteran politician, whose Web site on Thursday still bore the slogan "Vote for a way, vote with your heart," threw in the towel after almost a year as a "Labor rebel" who opposed his party's participation in the Netanyahu administration.
In the current Knesset, Paz-Pines has managed to advance three key private bills - one bill to crack down on dangerous drivers passed its first reading, and two other measures both targeting corruption passed their preliminary readings. One of these latter two - a bill that would punish government officials for ignoring recommendations by the state comptroller - passed unanimously. All-in-all, since the beginning of the 18th Knesset, Paz-Pines has submitted 24 bills, while in the last Knesset, he submitted more than 50 individual bills, 39 of them in 2008 alone.
During his Knesset service, which began in 1996 when he was aged 34, Paz-Pines was twice fingered to serve in key cabinet positions. From 2005 to 2006, he was interior minister, and following the 2006 election, served as the minister of science, culture and sport and was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. But in the same year, following the Second Lebanon War and in protest of the entry of Israel Beiteinu into the coalition, he resigned his ministry and redoubled his efforts as a legislator.
Paz-Pines held, over the years, a myriad of Knesset positions, including leading the Environmental Lobby, founding and chairing the Committee on Foreign Workers and serving as chairman of the Interior and Environment Committee as well as the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Under his leadership of the Interior Committee, a number of the country's most far-reaching environmental legislation was passed.
In the course of his work, Paz-Pines received the Movement for Quality Government's Knights of Quality Government award in 2008, the Ometz award given by "Citizens for Good Governance and Social Justice" in 2006 and the Amitai award for honest management and integrity in 1997.
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