Once considered the Israeli right’s brightest rising star and the subject of numerous profiles with glowing headlines like “The Woman Who Could Be Israel’s Next Leader,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Wednesday that she’ll be taking a break from politics for the foreseeable future following her New Right party’s shock wipeout in last week’s election.
“I am leaving for my own personal liberty, for a period that I cannot put a time limit on,” Shaked said at a Justice Ministry holiday toast ahead of Passover, the Jewish festival that celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt.
Shaked and her co-leader in the New Right, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, conceded their failure in the April 9 national election on Tuesday, hours after the Central Elections Committee confirmed that the party had failed to win enough votes to enter the Knesset. Despite predictions that the New Right would have a major role in the next government, the party had one of the most disappointing performances of the elections, narrowly failing to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Shaked said Wednesday that her exit from the political arena was due to “the decision of the voters, and the electoral threshold.” In a Facebook post published late Tuesday night, she said the the party “accepted the will of the voters and is moving on.”
Bennett, saying in a separate Facebook message that he was halting a series of pushes for a recount after New Right fell just 1,400 votes short of the threshold, described Shaked as “the best justice minister in the history of Israel.”
“Together, during the past six years, we took the tiller and turned it rightward and we managed to change, for the better, the course of the State of Israel. The ship will continue to sail without us,” he wrote.
The two popular pro-settler ministers had split from their religious-nationalist Jewish Home party last December to form the New Right, and sought to appeal to new secular voters. But the maneuver backfired, leaving them out of the Knesset altogether. The newly formed Union of Right-Wing Parties, which includes the Jewish Home, received five seats, down from eight under Bennett.
As justice minister since 2015, Shaked had pushed for widespread judicial reform to weaken the powers of the Supreme Court, and had hoped to continue after the election. In the most comprehensive and deep-cutting plan put forward by any of the right-wing parties running in the election, Shaked promised a “legal upheaval” to dismantle the court’s judicial oversight over the parliament and, at the same time, give the Knesset full power to appoint judges.
Addressing senior ministry officials Wednesday including Attorney General Avichai Mandeblblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Shaked said that in her four years as minister, she had succeeded in “getting rid of a fair amount of excess” within the justice system and “putting it in order.” While accepting that she will not be the person to lead it, she said, “there is more work to do.”
Bennett and Shaked, who have not been seen together since election night, are now expected to part ways.
While New Right had vowed to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the election, he is still on course without it to build a coalition of up to 65 seats, comprising Likud (35 seats), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Kulanu (4), and, likely, Yisrael Beytenu (5).