Two opposition lawmakers call it quits

Shai Piron of Yesh Atid to teach at college in Sderot; Yisrael Beytenu’s Sharon Gal resigns after only 6 months on the job

Outgoing Knesset members Shai Piron (left) and Sharon Gal (Yonatan Sindel/Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Outgoing Knesset members Shai Piron (left) and Sharon Gal (Yonatan Sindel/Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two opposition Knesset members announced their resignation from parliament on Wednesday morning.

Shai Piron of Yesh Atid a former education minister, said in a press release Wednesday morning that he would to take up a senior teaching position at a Sderot college. Shortly afterward, Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Sharon Gal announced his own political exit, stating that he would put his talents to better use by resuming his journalistic career.

Piron spoke with pride about his service in the Knesset, emphasizing his accomplishments as education minister.

“The Knesset is a sacred house. I was education minister, an assignment that had both successes and failures. I joined the Education Ministry in order to encourage a discourse of listening and excellence,” he said.

“It is not [simply] a matter of study units [for high school matriculation] but rather of giving the opportunity to every child, everywhere in Israel, of every religion in Israel. We succeeded together with the professional team at the Education Ministry to change the discourse, and no one can take that away from us,” he added.

Elazar Stern, shortly before leaving the military in 2008 (Flash 90/IDF Spokesman)
Elazar Stern in 2008 (Flash 90/IDF Spokesman)

Piron is set to be replaced by Elazar Stern, a former Hatnua party lawmaker who joined Yesh Atid before the elections in March. Stern, who was placed 12th on the list, failed to gain a Knesset seat when Yesh Atid won 11 seats in the vote.

Piron intends to take up a senior position at a college as well as head the education and culture department in the municipality of Sderot, near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid called Piron a “cherished friend” and said he was “my rabbi.”

But, he added, “Rabbi Shai is not leaving Yesh Atid. He is remaining one of us, of our flesh, Yesh Atid’s spiritual guide. Together we set up this wonderful party and we will continue together.”

Gal, the Yisrael Beytenu MK, announced his own retirement shortly after Piron, less than six months after being elected on the right-wing party’s list, saying that he would be able to use his skills in a more effective way as a member of the media.

“As a former journalist with an agenda, I was given an opportunity before the last election to try to advance it from within the Knesset as a member of the Yisrael Beytenu faction. I was happy about the opportunity and I took advantage of it in optimal fashion during my tenure,” Gal said in a statement.

Gal, a journalist and TV personality, hosted an economics program on Channel 10 for a decade before leaving in 2013 amid allegations of sexual impropriety and harassment, though the case was eventually dropped by police due to lack of evidence. He also spent time as a correspondent for daily newspaper Haaretz.

He will reportedly present a program on the economy on Channel 20, a right-wing cable news outlet.

“I regret Sharon Gal’s decision to retire from the Knesset, but I respect the fact that Gal is acting according to his conscience and out of a desire to bring his talents to bear in the best way possible in order to contribute to the State of Israel,” Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said in a statement.

Oded Forer at the Begin Heritage Institute, Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90
Oded Forer at the Begin Heritage Institute, Jerusalem, February 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90

As an MK, Gal is perhaps best known for proposing a bill that would have made it easier for judges to sentence terror convicts to death. The proposal was rejected in the Knesset by a wide margin.

He is to be replaced in the Knesset by Oded Forer, a former director of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.

Stuart Winer and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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