Likud ministers being pressured to quit Knesset

Party activists are urging ministers to step down in order to allow new MKs to enter political arena.

Wide view of the Knesset (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Wide view of the Knesset
Likud ministers are facing a pressure campaign from party activists to resign from the Knesset in order to allow new MKs to enter, party officials said Monday.
The pressure has escalated since last week when Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen quit the Knesset in order to accept an appointment as ambassador to the OECD in Paris. He was replaced in the parliament by former Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, the next name on the joint Likud Beytenu list that ran in the last election.
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu) confirmed Sunday that he was considering quitting the Knesset next month to concentrate on his ministry and allow the next name on the list, former MK Leon Litinetsky of Yisrael Beytenu, to enter.
If Litinetsky joins the Knesset, the next two names on the list are veteran Likud activists with experience in socioeconomic issues: David Bitan of Rishon Lezion and Uri Farej of Petah Tikva. They had hoped to enter the current Knesset but the Likud’s deal with Yisrael Beytenu pushed them out.
Bitan and Farej expressed optimism Monday that they would soon be MKs. Farej said Likud ministers should quit because with only 10 MKs who are not ministers or the Knesset speaker, the party’s ability to accomplish its goals on parliamentary committees is limited.
“We are knocking on the Knesset’s door,” Farej said. “The question is whether our ministers will do what Shamir is doing and resign. The Likud doesn’t have enough soldiers for the Knesset committees. I think in the end they will agree to quit, not for Uri Farej, but for the public interest.”
Bitan said he would not pressure any minister to leave, but added that he had heard another Likud MK would soon be appointed an ambassador, which could allow him to enter.
“I have a good job as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, but if someone wants to leave I have plenty to contribute from my experience and I will be glad to enter,” Bitan said.
A Likud MK expressed concern that Liberman would appoint a Likud MK as an ambassador before Shamir resigns in order to gain another MK for Yisrael Beytenu at the Likud’s expense. This would bring the ruling party down to only 18 seats. Liberman has tried to appoint Communications Minister Gilad Erdan as ambassador to the United Nations.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin confirmed that there were problems in Knesset committees but said he opposed requiring Likud ministers to resign from the parliament.
“I would be very happy if the Likud had more MKs but I would not obligate ministers to quit,” Levin said. “The problem is that as a ruling party we have only 19 MKs. The way for the faction to grow is for people in the next election to vote for large parties.”
All ministers, aside from the prime minister and faction heads, can quit their Knesset seat while retaining their government portfolio. This would allow more members from their party to make an impact on legislative activities, for example through memberships on key committees. If their party withdraws from the government, however, these ministers are not allowed to reclaim their Knesset seat.
The next names on the Likud Beytenu list after Litinetsky, Bitan and Farej are Yulia Malinovsky (Yisrael Beytenu), Kathy Sheetrit (Likud) and former Likud MK Ayoub Kara. But Sheetrit quit the list in order to be appointed Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz’s chief of staff.