Minister of Communications and Social Affairs Moshe Kahlon announced on Sunday evening that he has decided to “take a break” from political life and to not vie for a spot on the Likud list in the upcoming elections.
“I support the Likud and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Kahlon said, noting that he had agreed to be a part of the 100-days team after the January 22, 2013 elections.
Kahlon is 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 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.
Sources close to Netanyahu said Sunday that the prime minister would attempt to change Kahlon’s mind. “Netanyahu greatly appreciates the work of Kahlon and wants to see [the minister] at his side in the next government,” one source told Maariv.
When asked if he was worried that the prime minister would attempt to pressure him into staying in politics, Kahlon told Channel 2, “Please God, no.”
On Sunday evening, Kahlon’s fellow Likud members Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and MK Danny Danon both expressed their hope that Kahlon would change his mind.
“Kahlon has a great deal to give to the country and to the Likud,” Erdan said. “For him to remain in the political system is important for the citizens of Israel.”
Danon added that Kahlon is an “asset to the citizens of the State of Israel, and I call on him to reconsider his decision.”
Also on Sunday evening, Channel 2 reported that Yair Lapid, the head of the new Yesh Atid party, had offered the number two slot on the party list to former deputy chief of staff Moshe Kaplinsky. There was no word as to whether Kaplinsky had agreed to the offer.