Blue and White minister Asaf Zamir quits government

Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz announced he will appoint Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen as the new tourism minister.

Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Asaf Zamir casts his vote in the municipal elections on Tuesday, October 30, 2018;Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/COURTESY)
Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Asaf Zamir casts his vote in the municipal elections on Tuesday, October 30, 2018;Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/COURTESY)
Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir became the first Blue and White minister to quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Friday, sending the political system into turmoil and raising speculation that elections could be on the horizon.
Following Zamir's resignation, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz announced that he will appoint Orit Farkash Hacohen as the new tourism minister instead of her current role as minister of strategic affairs 
Zamir voted against the last two packages of coronavirus regulations in the government and had come under tremendous pressure from protest movements to resign. 
Zamir met with Gantz on Friday and told him he had to resign because he had no faith in Netanyahu. 
"The coronavirus crisis is at best a secondary priority for the prime minister," he said. "The personal and legal considerations are what interests Netanyahu, and this has been clear from every step he has taken."
He wrote on Facebook that he did not believe that Israel could end its coronavirus crisis as long as Netanyahu remains prime minister.
Zamir said he would remain loyal to the party and to Gantz, who he called a leader who "puts the people of Israel above all considerations."
Zamir is a former deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor before joining Blue and White.
The Black Flag protest movement issued a statement praising Zamir for his resignation, calling it a "courageous step." The movement called on the rest of Blue and White MKs to "stand for democracy like he did."

Last week, Science and Technology Minister Yizhar Shay also contemplated resigning but was persuaded not to by Gantz.
"Asaf Zamir didn't only resign, he laid out a serious indictment before all those who remain in the government a minute longer and continue to keep Netanyahu in power. Gantz and Ashkenazi - you are not serving the State of Israel, you are serving Netanyahu. It's time to resign," Leader of the Opposition, Yair Lapid said in regard to Zamir's resignation. 

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said Zamir's departure is the "first brick in Netanyahu's wall falling." He promised that more Blue and White ministers would follow. 
Likud responded by accusing Zamir of resigning for his own political reasons. He is expected to run again for Tel Aviv mayor in the next election.
"Zamir is running away from the battle just in order to gain some votes in Tel Aviv," the Likud said. "It is Zamir who is engaging in petty politics while the prime minister is fighting around the clock to save the lives and the livelihood of the citizens of Israel."
In a second statement, Likud said that Blue and White needs to decide whether "it is fighting the virus or the government."
The three ministers who voted against the new directives limiting protests against Netanyahu were Zamir, Shay and Farkash-Hacohen. Asked why she voted against, a spokesman for Farkash-Hacohen said it did not have to do with the protests but with economic issues.
"She doesn't agree with the economic part of the plan, and thinks the damage to the economy is much greater than what the plan achieves," her spokesperson said.