Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, of Yisrael Beytenu, will not run in the upcoming Knesset elections, he announced Saturday.
Shamir, the party’s No. 2 and the son of a former prime minister, becomes the latest Yisrael Beytenu leader to quit amid a massive corruption scandal implicating party officials that broke last month.
Shamir joins Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum, one of the main suspects in the sting, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman, David Rotem, all of whom have said they are not running in the March 17 elections.
Shamir, however, said he was stepping down because of party leader Avigdor Liberman’s new foreign policy platform ahead of the elections, which envisions a land and population swap with the Palestinians in a future peace agreement.
“I have a hard time identifying with the change in the party’s foreign policy platform,” Shamir said in a statement, according to the Ynet news site Saturday, “and therefore I’ve decided not to run for the Knesset in the framework of the party.”
“I am thankful for the honor which was given to me in the past two years to participate in making complex decisions on the issues of security, foreign policy and society,” he said.
The latest pre-election polls show a plummet in public support for the Yisrael Beytenu party, which is projected to garner between five and seven seats in the March 17 elections. The right-wing party currently holds 13 seats in the Knesset.
On Thursday, Liberman joined the camp of those warning that an Israeli annexation of the West Bank would lead to an apartheid state.
“What [Naftali] Bennett and his Jewish Home party are proposing is a classical bi-national state,” Liberman declared of his Orthodox-nationalist rivals during a press conference in Tel Aviv, and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.
“They need to decide if they’re talking about a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean such as the president [Reuven Rivlin] speaks about, or whether they’re talking about an apartheid state,” continued the hard-line, unabashedly nationalistic, settlement-residing foreign minister.