Likud minister quits, accusing ruling party of prejudice against Druze

Likud minister quits, accusing ruling party of prejudice against Druze

Having failed to make it into Knesset, and after pulling his candidacy to be ambassador to Cairo, Ayoub Kara steps down, but says he isn’t leaving politics altogether

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara speaks at a Likud party event in Lod on December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara speaks at a Likud party event in Lod on December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara announced his resignation on Monday, a day after withdrawing his candidacy to serve as the next ambassador to Egypt, accusing the ruling Likud party of sidelining him due to “prejudice” against the Druze community, to which he belongs.

“It is time to tell the Israeli people the truth,” Kara wrote in his resignation letter, which was made public. “Since my appointment as communications minister, a smear campaign driven by prejudice began against me and every success turned into a failure.

“The Likud leadership acted to weaken me and remove me from the movement’s centers of power, and even barred me from running [in the primaries] as a representative of minorities, something that hasn’t been done to any public official in the history of the State of Israel,” Kara charged.

Kara, 64, a lawyer and Druze politician from the Galilee town of Daliat el-Carmel, has been a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but failed to win a high enough spot on the party’s slate in the April 9 elections to enter the current Knesset.

“To stop this witch hunt and to keep serving the state, I am not quitting my public career but I am going to war to clear my name,” he said, adding that he would decide in the coming days what his next step in politics would be ahead of the September 17 elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Communications Minister Ayoub Kara at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Kara vowed to keep representing the Druze minority in the government and making sure they are not denied equal rights despite, unlike other minorities serving in the military in high proportions. That seemed to be a reference to the Jewish nation-state law the government passed last year, which was perceived by many as sidelining the Druze.

Kara’s resignation will take effect on Wednesday. Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, said she would ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to force Netanyahu to appoint a new communications minister immediately rather than let the position revert to him. Netanyahu was communications minister when he committed actions that are the center of a case in which Mandelblit has announced bribery charges against him, pending a hearing. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in that case, as well as in two other pending corruption cases.

On Sunday evening, Kara lambasted the premier and the Likud leadership. “I was Netanyahu’s shield, for months now I am being deceived using all sorts of tricks to embarrass me and drive me out. I have a problem with leaders who don’t know how to protect their people.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a farewell ceremony for Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, at the Justice Ministry offices in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Several hours earlier, Kara said he was withdrawing his candidacy for the post of envoy in Cairo. Media reports at the beginning of the month saying Netanyahu was considering Kara — who has a history of diplomatic fumbles — prompted protests from serving and former diplomats.

“I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the position of ambassador to Egypt,” Kara tweeted. “The attacks on me and the slander that I am not suitable for it and the delays due to political games… led to an end to this saga as far as I am concerned.”

Diplomatic staff made public appeals to the government to install Amira Oron, a professional diplomat who last fall was tapped to be the ambassador in Cairo, instead of Kara.

Over the years, Kara has been active in interfaith activities and in improving Israeli relations with many countries, including Turkey and Austria, as well as with Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria and Iraqi Kurds.

However, he has also been involved in a series of sometimes bizarre diplomatic snafus.

Last year he was detained at the Dubai airport and missed his flight after apparently failing to heed instructions from airport officials.

In 2017, Morocco issued a rare official complaint to Israel after Kara posed for a picture with the prime minister of the breakaway Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco.

MK Ayoub Kara (center) and his family arrive at the opening of the 18th Knesset, Jerusalem, February 24 2009. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In November 2016, Kara posted to his Facebook page details of a security-related incident involving the Jewish state. The post was quickly taken down, but not before journalists and others saw the information.

A month earlier, Kara drew condemnation from the Foreign Ministry when, during a visit to Italy, he suggested that powerful earthquakes in that country were divine retribution for anti-Israel actions in the United Nations.

Also Sunday, the Ynet news site reported that Kara last month met producers of the Israeli version of reality TV show “Survivor” to discuss being a candidate on its next season.

A staunch Netanyahu loyalist, he nonetheless lost the prime minister’s backing before the Likud party primaries in February, for reasons that remain unclear.

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