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Welfare minister Shmuli resigns, citing ‘mistake’ of joining Netanyahu coalition

Labor lawmaker admits to having a ‘substantive’ difference of opinion with his party’s policies, says he is taking a break from political life

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli speaks during a ceremony at the ministry's headquarters in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)
Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli speaks during a ceremony at the ministry's headquarters in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli announced Wednesday that he was taking a break from the government and politics, saying he was taking responsibility for the “mistake” of joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

In a post to his Facebook page, Labor party member Shmuli wrote: “I decided to take time off from politics to consider my future path forward.”

“It is not my intention to continue to run in the coming elections — neither in the Labor party nor in any other political framework that would be open for me,” said Shmuli, who became a Knesset member in 2013 having previously served as a prominent leader of the social protest movement and National Student Union chairman.

The development came after freshly installed Labor leader Merav Michaeli last week pulled the party out of the government coalition and demanded that its two ministers, Shmuli and Economy Minister Amir Peretz, either leave the party or resign from the government.

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli speaks to press after casting her vote in the Labour primaries, in Tel Aviv on February 01, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90 )

“A few months ago I decided, out of consideration of national responsibility, to be part of a government formed with the aim of addressing one of the most serious crises that has been and is still here,” he said referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Put to the test, the outcome is that it was a mistake,” he wrote. “Public leaders should also know how to admit their mistakes and take responsibility.”

Shmuli also admitted that he has a “substantive dispute on policies” with Labor, whose leadership race he dropped out of prior to the party’s primaries.

Hinting at Michaeli’s recent selection as leader, he wrote: “I respect the democratic decision that has been made, and in light of the decision of the party institutions, I intend to resign as a member of the government as soon as possible.”

Labor MKs Itzik Shmuli (L) and Amir Peretz at the party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on February 13, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

His post will pass to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who as head of the Blue and White party is the unity partner in the government with Netanyahu’s Likud.

Haaretz reported that Shmuli was recently in negotiations to join Blue and White but the talks did not bear fruit.

Peretz left the Labor party and remains a minister, although he will not run in the March elections.

The unity government automatically dissolved in December after failing to pass a state budget, triggering what will be the fourth round of elections in two years on March 23.

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