MK Benny Begin, son of first Likud PM, leaves politics

New Hope lawmaker, 79, cites old age as main factor in decision, but says he will support the faction in coming election campaign; Lapid praises ‘ethical, diligent’ legislator

New Hope MK Benny Begin leads a Knesset committee meeting on December 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
New Hope MK Benny Begin leads a Knesset committee meeting on December 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

New Hope MK Benny Begin, son of the Likud party’s iconic founder and former prime minister Menachem Begin, announced his retirement from political life on Thursday.

Begin, who will turn 80 in March, informed party chair Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar that due to his advanced age he’d decided not to run in the November vote, according to an official party statement.

“MK Begin announced that he would remain a member of New Hope and that he will participate in the election campaign as part of ‘Blue and White-New Hope,'” the statement added.

Sa’ar thanked the retiring representative for joining his party before the previous elections and for his “dedicated and professional work in the Knesset and its committees.”

Since 1988 Begin served in the Knesset and as a minister for a combined 18 years over several periods. Until 2019 he’d done so as a member of Likud, but in 2019 he announced that he would no longer back the party, citing its inflammatory rhetoric and Benjamin Netanyahu’s suspected criminal actions. Ahead of the 2021 election he joined New Hope, which is largely comprised of former Likud members who lost faith in Netanyahu.

Begin’s decision to break with his father’s party was taken negatively by some of its more extreme activists.

New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar (left) welcomes Benny Begin to his party, January 21, 2020 (Courtesy)

He was accosted and called a “traitor” by several Netanyahu supporters in December 2021 as he left a New Hope faction meeting in Beit Shemesh, in an incident that was denounced by Likud MKs.

“You’re a crazy old man who is betraying his father’s legacy. Your father is ashamed… Your father is rolling over in his grave,” an activist said.

“Look what you did to your father, he is ashamed of you,” said another.

Responding to Begin’s decision to quit, Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted his well-wishes to Begin and praised him as an “ethical” and “diligent” lawmaker who “maintains a respectful and unifying discourse even with those who disagree with him.”

The upcoming elections scheduled for November 1 are the fourth since 2019, as the Netanyahu-led political bloc and anti-Netanyahu bloc struggle to win a safe majority in the Knesset.

In the lead-up to the vote, several lawmakers have announced they would be leaving the political scene, including Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg and Esawi Frej and former primer minister Naftali Bennett, who led the right-wing Yamina party.

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