Uri Ariel resigns as agriculture minister, 10 months after quitting politics
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Uri Ariel resigns as agriculture minister, 10 months after quitting politics

Right-wing minister leaves cabinet post after phone call with Netanyahu, sparking speculation PM is seeking to give portfolio to an ally

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel attends a Jewish Home faction meeting at the Knesset, on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel attends a Jewish Home faction meeting at the Knesset, on January 15, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) resigned Sunday from his cabinet post, a position he has retained for 10 months amid the political stalemate despite sitting out the past two national elections.

Ariel informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his decision in a letter on Sunday. His letter of resignation, which did not offer an explanation, said it came after a phone conversation with the prime minister.

In a later tweet, Ariel said he had resigned at Netanyahu’s request and thanked the prime minister for working with him.

His abrupt departure fueled speculation Netanyahu was set to hand over the portfolio to a political ally, likely a Likud member. The prime minister on Friday appointed New Right MK Naftali Bennett as defense minister in the caretaker government, sparking some grumbling among Likud loyalists unhappy to be passed over.

On Saturday, New Right politician Ayelet Shaked said Netanyahu had offered her and Bennett two options: either the defense portfolio for Bennett alone, or a choice of two portfolios for the pair of them out of three possibilities — Diaspora, welfare and agriculture.

Ariel has remain a non-MK cabinet minister through two national votes — in April and September — by dint of no prime ministerial candidate managing to form a new governing coalition.

Agriculture minister since 2015, Ariel retired from national politics in January after being defeated by Bezalel Smotrich in the leadership election for the hard-right National Union faction of the Jewish Home.

Ariel had served as National Union chairman since 2012 and has been in the Knesset since 2001. His tenure as agriculture minister saw the approval of the export of medical cannabis, a short-lived produce trade war between Israel and the Palestinians, and an aborted plan to deport the country’s stray cats. 

In recent years Ariel has received praise from animal rights groups for a number of projects he has initiated including a recent effort against reported animal cruelty during the slaughtering process.

Ariel, 66, also previously served as housing minister. He entered the parliament following the 2001 murder of National Union minister Rehavam Ze’evi by Palestinian terrorists.

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