Stas Misezhnikov, the reportedly hard-partying minister of tourism from the Yisrael Beytenu party, is retiring from politics and will not run for a Knesset seat in the January 22 elections, it was announced on Tuesday. No explicit reason was given for Misezhnikov’s departure, but Israeli analysts attributed the move to an initiative by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to “clean up” his party’s image.
Misezhnikov, 43, who first entered the Knesset in 2006 and was appointed minister of tourism in 2009, became embroiled in controversy in early September after a former bodyguard alleged that the minister regularly drank to excess, visited strip clubs and practiced a party-oriented, after-hours lifestyle. Misezhnikov denied the charges, although he admitted he “loved to go out” and was “not embarrassed to sit and have a drink.”
Liberman on Tuesday expressed regret over the decision and praised Misezhnikov in a press release announcing his departure from the political arena. Liberman said that Misezhnikov would have had a “very high” position on the Yisrael Beytenu list of candidates had he chosen to remain in the party.
“Misezhnikov held a number of key roles in the political system for the last two sessions, and he was successful in all of them and greatly contributed to the economic and social resilience of Israel and its citizens,” Liberman said. “I wish him luck wherever he goes.”
Misezhnikov’s retirement comes on the heels of a similar announcement on Monday by another headline-making Yisrael Beytenu MK, Anastassia Michaeli, who claimed “personal reasons” for her decision to leave politics.
Michaeli, who entered the Knesset in 2009, was involved in several high-profile, controversial incidents during her term, including throwing a cup of water at Labor MK Raleb Majadele earlier this year and a physical altercation with Balad MK Hanin Zoabi in 2010. In June of this year she again made headlines after a series of comments about homosexuality.