Outgoing Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar handed in his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday and will be honored Monday by the Knesset at a farewell event.
Sa’ar, who had been described as a favorite in the battle to eventually succeed Netanyahu as Likud chairman, announced his intention to “take a break” from politics at a gathering of about 1,000 Likud party members on September 17.
The prime minister offered Communications Minister Gilad Erdan the interior minister position shortly after Sa’ar’s announcement, but Erdan reportedly asked the prime minister for some time to consider the offer. He has been said to be weighing an alternative offer — to be appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, a post he turned down several years ago.
Sa’ar has said his resignation was due to his desire to be home for his toddler son David and his new wife, journalist Geula Even. He has also become more religiously observant in recent months, he said.
Following his intention to leave the government, Netanyahu and other coalition ministers said Sa’ar would be missed and wished him well.
However, just days after the announcement, Sa’ar said in an interview that his once close relationship with Netanyahu had deteriorated after Sa’ar opposed what he deemed “undemocratic” moves by the prime minister in attempting to prevent President Reuven Rivlin from winning the presidential election in the spring.
Despite his disagreement with Netanyahu, Sa’ar dismissed speculation that he might join forces with fellow ex-Likud minister Moshe Kahlon and form a new party.
Sa’ar, 47, started off as an assistant to the attorney general before being appointed by Netanyahu as cabinet secretary. He was first elected to the Knesset in 2003, and later served as the party chairman as well as the deputy speaker of the Knesset. Sa’ar served as education minister in the previous government.
Since the Likud Knesset list is shared with the Yisrael Beytenu party, Sa’ar’s resignation will shrink the Likud party’s representation in the Knesset from 19 to 18, and Yisrael Beytenu will gain a 13th MK — Leon Litinetsky.
Following Sa’ar’s departure, the ruling Likud will become the second-largest party in the Knesset, trailing behind the Yesh Atid party, which claimed 19 Knesset seats in the 2013 election.