Labor's Shochat quits politics

"The [Labor] party must change its ways if it wants to continue to exist."

One of the Labor Party's most prominent members, Avraham Shochat, announced his resignation from the Knesset Sunday with an ominous prediction for his party. "The Labor party must change its ways if it wants to continue to exist," he said at a press conference. Shochat, whose political career spanned 40 years, including 17 as as an MK and finance minister, said he would immediately withdraw from the Knesset Finance Committee and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee but would remain an MK until the end of November. "I am delaying my resignation in order to stay in the Knesset and vote in the plenum," Shochat said, "because there are several things I want to take part in," especially the vote on the 2006 budget and the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Shochat served as finance minister in the 25th, 26th and 28th Knessets, under prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. During the press conference he spoke fondly of Rabin and recalled memories of serving under him. Several Knesset aides speculated that Shochat was leaving the Knesset to pursue business ventures. During the press conference, however, Shochat insisted that business was not his main drive for leaving. "There is no single reason I am leaving the Knesset," he said. "There are many reasons that have accumulated and grown too strong for me to resist." Among those, he listed spending more time with his family and pursuing charity work. Former minister-without-portfolio Sallah Tarif is next on the Labor Party list to replace Shochat in the Knesset. However, he was convicted for bribing the head of the Interior Ministry's Population Registry and served six months of community service. Although Tarif is currently appealing the conviction, the Shinui Party Knesset faction has asked the Knesset House Committee to disallow his return to Knesset. Former MK Sofa Landver is next on the Labor list if Tarif is not permitted to serve. She served in the 15th Knesset and was deputy transportation minister for three months in 2002. Landver currently serves as the chairperson of the National Association of Russian Immigrants, a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She declined to comment on the prospect of replacing Shochat, saying only that "he was a man who contributed a lot to Labor." Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.