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Likud minister Livnat quits politics

‘I’ve had enough,’ says veteran, becoming 3rd top party member to quit in two years; last week she lamented Likud’s drift to right

Limor Livnat speaking in the Knesset on July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Limor Livnat speaking in the Knesset on July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat announced Monday evening that she would be quitting politics and would not compete to run with the Likud in the upcoming elections.

Livnat informed Likud leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Monday of her decision to leave the political sphere after 22 years.

She has served in several senior positions over the years, including 14 years in ministerial posts including communications minister and education minister.

She told Channel 2 news she wanted to move in “new directions.” She stressed, though, that “the Likud remains my home.”

“I’ve had enough,” she told Channel 2 equably.

Two weeks ago, Livnat absented herself from a cabinet meeting that approved an initial draft of controversial legislation to define Israel as a Jewish state. Last week, she lamented in an Army Radio interview that today’s Likud was “not the Likud of old,” saying it had moved to the right, so that it was not far from Tekuma, a faction of Naftali Bennett’s Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party led by Housing Minister Minister Uri Ariel. Ariel favors annexing the entire West Bank.

She said Monday that she did back Netanyahu’s softened version of the “Jewish state” bill, which is now stalled because of the Knesset’s dissolution. She also said it was “no secret” that “not all of the voices” in today’s Likud were to her taste.

“Limor made a significant contribution to the state of Israel in a variety of positions which she filled around the table of government and in the Knesset of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “She was a central figure to the Israeli public and in the Likud movement. I am certain that Limor will continue to contribute her many talents to the benefit of the state of Israel.”

In 1997, Livnat led an initiative at the Likud Central Committee to oust Netanyahu as the party leader. Relations between the two soured but bounced back, and Livnat served as culture and sports minister under the Netanyahu government in 2009 and again in 2013.

Livnat is the third senior Likud member to quit the party in just two years — former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar announced his resignation in September, citing personal reasons; and former communications minister Moshe Kahlon took his leave before the last elections in January 2013.

Kahlon has formed a new party that is set to run in the March 17 elections, while reports circulated last week that Sa’ar may return to challenge Netanyahu at the Likud primaries.

It was not immediately clear if Livnat was poised to make similar moves.

Opposition parties welcomed the news of Livnat’s departure, saying it was a sign of the alleged demise of the party.

“Livnat now understands what Sa’ar and Kahlon did before her, and has jumped ship. Netanyahu’s Likud is a far-right party, which is unable to take Israel forward,” sources in the Labor Party told Ynet.

A Yesh Atid source told the news site Livnat’s resignation was “further proof that [Likud has] lost its way and that it [has become] weak.”

“Livnat was a voice of reason in the Likud and has served the Israeli public diligently,” Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid was quoted by Ynet as saying.

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