Minister of Communications and Social Affairs Moshe Kahlon announced his formal resignation from political life at a Knesset press conference on Monday. Kahlon made the decision despite calls by fellow Likud members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for him to run in the upcoming 2013 elections.
Speaking at a Likud party meeting, Kahlon expressed his support for Likud’s ideology and actions during his ministerial term, but did not elaborate on why he sought to “take a break” from politics. The communications minister said he would continue to play a role in the party despite his resignation. “I am leaving the Knesset, not Likud,” he said.
“I was always a part of you, and I will continue to be a part of you. You were part of me, and you shall remain so,” Kahlon told Likud MKs. He thanked Netanyahu for his support in proposing “laws, reforms, and great changes for the welfare of the citizens.”
“Were it not for the cooperation and support of the prime minister, we wouldn’t have succeeded in this,” Kahlon said.
Kahlon’s announcement came shortly before the Knesset was set to open its winter session, in which a bill for dispersing parliament and calling for early elections was to be voted on.
Netanyahu at the meeting said that he understood Kahlon’s desire to leave the Knesset, but he would not stop trying to change his mind. “I haven’t given up trying to convince you to stay, I will not be despair. Your place is with us,” Netanyahu said.
Attempts by fellow Likud MKs to convince Kahlon to remain in the party list were also fruitless. MK Carmel Shama Hacohen reportedly posted Kahlon’s personal cell phone number on his Facebook page and encouraged his followers to message Kahlon, imploring him to remain in politics.
Labor Party chair Shelly Yachimovich expressed regret at Kahlon’s resignation, saying “Kahlon was an excellent minister whose heart is in the right place and who has a deep commitment to the general Israeli public, not just the wealthy minority, who he did not hesitate to fight when necessary.”
Kahlon is regarded as one of the most popular members of the ruling Likud party. He has received plaudits for reforms he has introduced to Israel’s cellular phone market that brought in new competition and reduced costs to end users.
According to Channel 2 News, the reason for Kahlon’s decision was that after four years of very difficult and intense work with two ministerial portfolios, and after 10 years in the Knesset, he felt that he needed a break.
Kahlon said on Sunday that he made his decision two weeks ago, before Yom Kippur, and informed Netanyahu at the time. The prime minister reportedly asked Kahlon to postpone his announcement, and the minister agreed.
Kahlon was first elected to the Knesset in 2003. In 2006, he won the Likud primaries, which placed him third on the party list in the general elections of that year. In the 2009 elections he placed sixth on the party list.