The end of former United Torah Judaism minister Yaakov Litzman’s 23-year Knesset career was announced without fanfare, as the Haredi MK told his party’s Monday faction meeting that he would leave Knesset after the upcoming Passover break, which takes place from mid-March to mid-May.
In December, the veteran parliamentarian announced he would not run again for a Knesset seat. He did not provide a reason for accelerating his timeline, said his spokesman. Litzman has said in the past that his decision to leave politics was not related to pending charges against him.
Litzman is currently negotiating a plea deal for a single charge of fraud and breach of trust in relation to the Malka Leifer case. The plea bargain, which has come under public criticism as a sweetheart deal that drops an obstruction of justice charge, avoids prison time, and includes a nominal fine of NIS 2,800 ($865), is still awaiting court approval, according to Litzman’s spokesman.
Leifer, a former principal of a Melbourne Orthodox girls’ school, is accused of sexually assaulting minors. Litzman is accused of using his former position as deputy health minister to block Leifer’s extradition to Australia, which ultimately happened in January of last year, 13 years after she fled to Israel to escape investigation.
First elected to the Knesset in 1999, Litzman was the de facto head of the Health Ministry for more than a decade, serving as either deputy or full health minister from 2009 until mid-2020.
Last year, Litzman stepped down as chair of the United Torah Judaism party after 18 years at the helm, with Moshe Gafni taking the lead. Litzman is now the party’s No. 2.
Yaakov Tessler is expected to replace Litzman once he vacates one of UTJ’s seven Knesset seats.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.