(photo credit: Courtesy)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor Party suffered a blow on Monday when MK Danny Yatom resigned from the Knesset due to Barak's decision last week not to quit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition.
Yatom became the second security-minded Labor MK in five weeks to quit the Knesset, following the May 25 departure of Ephraim Sneh. Unlike Sneh, who formed a new party, Yatom decided to leave politics in favor of business and academia.
A former IDF general and Mossad chief, Yatom said he had grown frustrated with his inability to change things at the Knesset and his lack of influence as a back bench MK.
He admitted that he had been contemplating retirement since his failed run against Barak for the Labor leadership last year.
"In my five-and-a-half years at the Knesset, I was not able to make the best use of my abilities," Yatom told reporters after submitting his resignation to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. "I contributed more as a young officer in the [IDF's elite] IDF's General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) than I did as a politician."
Yatom, 63, served under Barak in the army and then as his chief of staff during the latter's tenure as prime minister.
Although Yatom described his relationship with Barak as "terrific," he told the Labor faction that he decided to quit politics because Barak had rejected his advice to remove Labor from the government after the Second Lebanon War and after US financier Morris Talansky's testimony against Olmert.
"It's not a secret that in the two years since the war, I have felt uncomfortable," Yatom told the faction. "The leadership in Israel has made political survival its only goal. Moral and ethical codes that were once fundamental have been eroded."
Yatom blamed Olmert for the deterioration of Israeli politics and hinted that Barak was collaborating with the prime minister by enabling him to remain in power.
"Olmert failed in the task of leadership in war and did not succeed in moral and public tasks, [but] he is not alone, and corruption standards and improper behavior continue," Yatom said. "As a Knesset member in a coalition party, I feel as though I am a partner in the deterioration when I vote in favor of the government. I can no longer function in a reality in which political considerations fill the void of leadership and take precedence over basic values."
Yatom said he hoped that his resignation would send a
message that the public should not accept corruption. He wished Barak well and said he hoped he would return Labor to power.
Barak's associates praised Yatom's integrity but downplayed the impact of his departure.
"There are people who aren't meant for politics," a source close to Barak said. "Danny was just too clean for politics."
Labor officials said privately that the real reason for Yatom's resignation was that he would not get re-elected to the Knesset if Labor fell to 14 seats, as predicted by the polls.
Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar called Yatom's departure "further proof of the deterioration of Israeli politics under this government."
Yatom will be replaced in the Knesset by Leon Litinetsky, who led Labor's Russian campaign in the last elections and is considered close to former party chairman Amir Peretz. Litinetsky made aliya from Russia in 1991 and lives in Kfar Saba with his wife and son. He works for Israel Electric and is active in its union.
"I never lost hope of entering the Knesset, but I didn't get my hopes up, either," Litinetsky told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm glad I am being given an opportunity to have influence. I know Danny well and I respect his decision, but it is a great loss." Litinetsky said his goals would be to help immigrants via his parliamentary work in the Knesset while sending a message to immigrants that Labor was helping them via his political work. If another Labor MK leaves the Knesset for any reason, the next name on the party list is former MK Avi Yehezkel.
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