Minister Eli Avidar quits cabinet

Eli Avidar is the first minister to quit Naftali Bennett's government.

 Minister Eli Avidar (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Minister Eli Avidar
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Eli Avidar announced at a Knesset press conference on Tuesday afternoon that he was quitting his post as strategic planning minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, becoming the first minister to quit the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Avidar said he regretted not resigning three months ago when it became clear that he would not be promoted to intelligence services minister. He said he had rejected offers of other ministries and framed his departure as ideological, singling out the slow pace in passing bills aimed at preventing the return of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Every day that passes without advancing the bills is the fault of people in the government who want to keep Bibi relevant,” Avidar said.

Bennett won’t keep his commitment to rotate as prime minister with Yair Lapid, he said. Using terminology from Bennett’s hi-tech career, he added: “He made his exit, and that is what matters to him.”

Bennett’s government enforced an unofficial coronavirus lockdown, Avidar said. A November press conference on the Omicron variant had harmed hundreds of thousands of Israeli businesses, he said.

 Strategic Planning Minister Eli Avidar.  (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE) Strategic Planning Minister Eli Avidar. (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)

Avidar said he was also angry that the government had allowed the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to monitor citizens in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I met with Bennett twice and tried to effect change from within,” he said. “I asked him to stop the rift and bring hope. Even if I received a job with content, it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut.”

Avidar will return to the Knesset, which he quit via the Norwegian Law. Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Roffe Ofir, who entered in his place, will automatically leave on Thursday when Avidar’s resignation from the cabinet takes effect.

As an independent MK in a narrow coalition, Avidar said he would hold the balance of power and use it to advance what he believes in.

“I want the government to survive, but we cannot act worse than the government of darkness we replaced,” he said. “I want the government to keep its promises. I will remain loyal to it, but I have an agenda.”

When the government was formed in June, Avidar rejected an offer from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to serve as a second minister in the Finance Ministry and left his party. Avidar then accepted a temporary appointment as strategic planning minister in August, but an expected promotion did not come.

In the ministry, Avidar wrote five strategic plans for the national goals of weakening Hamas, fighting crime in the Arab sector, increasing the population of the periphery, guaranteeing food security and preparing to absorb a million immigrants from the Western world over the next decade.