Liberman surprises, leaves Ayalon off list

Yisrael Beytenu will run Shamir, but not Meseznikov, Michaeli, for next Knesset; Landau, Landver, Aharonovitch round out top 5.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman cleaned house in his Yisrael Beytenu party on Tuesday night, expunging it of three MKs who were embroiled in scandals that embarrassed him: Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, MK Anastasia Michaeli and most surprisingly, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Meseznikov and Michaeli retired from politics before the candidate list was announced, claiming they left at their own volition to pursue other opportunities.
But Ayalon was taken by surprise that he was not a candidate for the 19th Knesset, finding out shortly before the list was announced.
Liberman gave no explanation as to why he left Ayalon off the list and he did not mention him in a lengthy speech at a Yisrael Beytenu event in Jerusalem. He declined to comment about Ayalon when asked by The Jerusalem Post about his deputy at the Foreign Ministry as he left the hotel courtyard where the list was announced.
But Ayalon’s departure is thought to be tied to a January 2010 incident in which he was caught on camera instructing cameraman filming a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to notice that he had placed him on a low chair and refused to shake the envoy’s hand in an effort to scold him.
Ayalon wrote on Facebook that he would continue to serve in his post until his term ends, and then in a different capacity.
“Today I received a message from Liberman that I will be not be on the Yisrael Beytenu list for the next Knesset,” he wrote. “Over the past four years, I had the honor of serving as Israel’s deputy foreign minister at a complex and challenging time. Whichever path I choose, I will continue to work for a strengthened and more prosperous Israel, whether it is in the diplomatic, security or economic spheres.”
Liberman praised Meseznikov at the Jerusalem event, saying that he believes he will come back to politics.
Earlier, Liberman expressed his dismay about Meseznikov’s departure.
“I was sorry Meseznikov, my partner over the past 14 years, decided to leave politics,” Liberman said. “He would have been very high on the list and been a senior minister in the next government.”
But Meseznikov reportedly was left off the list to punish him for a series of embarrassing scandals in which he was accused of regularly missing or coming late to key meetings in Israel and around the world because he drank alcohol excessively and went to night clubs.
“I feel I am exhausted by my work in politics,” Meseznikov told reporters. “There is no connection to what was reported. If there was, I would have left a long time ago.”
Michaeli said she was taking time out from politics to spend time with her large family. She already cleaned out her office in the Knesset a month and a half ago. In January, Michaeli was suspended from the Knesset for a month after throwing a glass of water on Labor MK Ghaleb Majadle during a heated discussion.
MKs Moshe Matalon and Lia Shemtov were also given unrealistic slots on the list, which will be combined with the Likud’s list on a joint Knesset slate. No native English speaker was put in a realistic slot. Toronto-born Danny Hershtal was placed 28th on the list.
Former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s son Yair, who headed Israel Aerospace Industries, will follow Liberman on the list. The rest of the top five are ministers Uzi Landau, Sofa Landver and Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
MK David Rotem, who became the nemesis of Reform and Conservative Jews due to his legislation that would have harmed them, is eighth on the list.
New candidates on the list include Bar-Ilan University Prof. Shimon Ohayon, who is a leader of Moroccan immigrants, former Labor MK Leon Linitinsky and Holon city councilwoman Yulia Malinovsky.
Liberman called the candidates list “balanced, nationalist and responsible.”
“We have a winning list,” he said. “On January 22, we will all celebrate the victory of the nationalist camp.”