In a further sign that the political sphere is gearing up for possible elections, MK Orly Levy-Abekasis was officially ousted from the Yisrael Beytenu party Tuesday after the party requested the Knesset declare her an independent MK.
Levy-Abekasis announced in May 2016 that she would leave Yisrael Beytenu over its entry into the Likud-led government, saying that the party had abandoned its social platform during negotiations to enter the coalition. Her announcement came after reports that Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman had dropped demands to advance conversion reforms, civil unions and increased Israel Defense Forces enlistment for the ultra-Orthodox.
Levy-Abekasis has since been serving as an independent MK in the opposition, but has never officially tendered her resignation from the party. According to Knesset protocol, leaving a party prohibits an incumbent MK from running on any already existing list in the next elections.
Thus, Tuesday’s decision means that if Levy-Abekasis wishes to run for reelection, she can only do so through a new party.
In his request to the Knesset House Committee to eject the MK from the faction, Yisrael Beytenu party chairman MK Robert Ilatov said “there is no denying that MK Orly Levy-Abekasis has left the Yisrael Beytenu faction… this fact is clear, has been declared [by her] at every opportunity and is confirmed by her daily conduct in the Knesset.”
Even so, he wrote, she “has not seen fit to take the appropriate public action and take this step herself.” He also called on her to “resign from the Knesset and return the mandate to the party through which she was elected.”
Levy-Abekasis criticized the move on Facebook, saying: “There are other ways to ‘part ways,’ but the faction has chosen the ugliest method, intended to prevent MKs who quit their factions in order to join the government from gaining benefits or upgrading their standing — even though the case here is the opposite: It was I who refused to join the government when I realized the public I was representing did not stand to gain from the move.”
Ahead of the decision, Levy-Abekasis said last month she was considering establishing a new political faction to run in the next parliamentary elections. Pressed on her future political intentions, Levy-Abekasis told Israel Radio, “I don’t think I’d surprise anyone by saying my preference is to establish something new.”
When asked whether her new bloc would include known figures in Israeli politics, Levy-Abekasis said, “I really think we need to bring something new, with a new message… that they won’t place us as [being] right or left.”
Some rumors have tied Levy-Abekasis to former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who has also announced his plans to form a new party to run in the next elections and challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, if Ya’alon ends up hitching his party to an existing list, Levy-Abekasis would be barred from the running.
While Knesset elections have yet to be scheduled, the independent MK has said she “unequivocally” plans to stick around.
The lawmaker highlighted the growing pension crisis in Israel as an issue that she’d like to address if her new party were to come to fruition.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.