Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar dropped a political bombshell on Wednesday evening when he announced a “time-out” from politics.
Sa’ar, who was twice elected as the top candidate in Likud primaries, joins Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, and Moshe Kahlon – who have left the party in the past two weeks.
Another senior member of the ruling party, Minister Gilad Erdan, may also leave the faction soon to become Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations – a role offered to him in his last term, when he decided to remain in the government.
The last high-profile departure was in October 2012, when the “star” of the previous Likud government, former communications minister Moshe Kahlon, announced a break from political activities.
Less than a month after the loss of Kahlon, the Likud held its primaries ahead of the upcoming elections. Veteran ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meridor were unable to place within the top 20 spots – and were removed from the Likud’s Knesset list.
In recent months the compact between Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud was broken, though they had ran together in the previous election. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the break-up in July.
“Recently, differences of opinion between the prime minister and I became significant,” Lieberman explained at the time. “The truth is that the union did not work during the elections, did not work after the elections, and through today there have been more than a few technical difficulties – but when the technical difficulties become problems over principles, it can no longer be ignored.”
In his speech on Wednesday, Sa’ar mentioned Kahlon. “I considered doing this (time-out) two years ago. Moshe Kahlon preempted me, and I could not do the same thing,” said the outgoing minister, who did not mention the party chairman, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech.
“I look back at 20 years of public service and the 12 years that I have represented you in the government and the Knesset, and I feel an immense satisfaction of my work for the people of Israel and for its country,” he concluded.