Chaim Ramon to Quit Knesset Tomorrow


chaim-ramonKadima MK Chaim Ramon will end weeks of speculation about his political future tomorrow afternoon when he will announce his resignation from the Knesset after more than 26 almost nonstop years in the parliament. Ramon will deliver his final Knesset speech onWednesday before his resignation takes effect 48 hours after submitting it. He will then embark on a career in business in a company led by one of Israel’s leading entrepreneurs, while keeping a foothold in politics in the symbolic post of Kadima council chairman.He told confidants that he was merely taking a break from the Knesset and would eventually make a comeback. Kadima officials said it was possible that Ramon could even return to the cabinet if the party joined the coalition.

“I’m not quitting politics,” Ramon said. “I’m sticking around.”

Ramon will at least temporarily end his political career much differently than he had planned. At one point he was seen as the most likely successor to Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres as leader of the Labor Party and as an eventual prime minister.

But following Rabin’s assassination, Ehud Barak sped past him en route to both positions and the closest Ramon ever came to being Labor leader was in the November 19, 2002, party primary when he lost a three-way race against Amram Mitzna and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, winning only seven percent of the vote.

Known as one of the top orators in Israeli politics, Ramon warned that Labor could kill itself in an infamous February 1994 speech in which he compared the party’s leaders to beached whales. Ramon left Labor in January 2006 when he switched to Kadima and briefly left the Knesset for three months as mandated by law to run again with another party.

Ramon’s accomplishments include reforming the Histadrut when he was its chairman and as health minister, depoliticizing the health funds, requiring everyone to be a member of a health fund and setting a health basket to which all residents would be entitled. He was also credited with being the first politician to push for a West Bank security fence and the political big bang that created Kadima.

Ramon has served as minister of interior, health, justice and vice premier. His term as justice minister ended when he resigned on August 16, 2006.

Ramon will be replaced in the Knesset by the next name on the Kadima list, Yulia Shamolov Berkovich, a former deputy director-general of the party and a founder of an Israeli-based Russian-language newspaper and television station, who moved to Israel in 1979.

{Yair Israel/JPost}