Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman shocked followers of Israeli politics Tuesday when word came out that he had removed Danny Ayalon from the party’s slate ahead of the upcoming elections.
Ayalon, who serves as deputy foreign minister, reportedly fell out with Liberman in recent months. Ayalon was seventh on the party’s slate for the 2009 elections. No reason was provided for his departure.
Liberman presented the party list at a press conference Tuesday evening, at which he said that “following much difficult deliberation, we have a balanced and responsible list.”
Yair Shamir, the 67-year-old son of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, was named as the number two on Liberman’s list for the 19th Knesset. The move pushed National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau down to the third slot.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver placed fourth, followed in slots 5-9 by Public Defense Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, and MKs Orly Levy-Abekasis, Faina Kirschenbaum, David Rotem and Robert Ilatov.
Unlike most major parties, Yisrael Beytenu does not hold primary elections; its slate is chosen by a committee headed by Liberman.
Ayalon is the third Yisrael Beytenu MK to be ousted from the list, following the resignations of Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and MK Anastassia Michaeli. He issued a statement saying he was thankful for the opportunity to serve as deputy foreign minister for four years and pledged to continue to act in the country’s interests in any future role.
Misezhnikov announced he was leaving politics earlier Tuesday after it became clear to him that he would not be assigned a realistic spot in the party’s list.
No official reason was given for Misezhnikov leaving, but Israeli analysts attributed the move to an initiative by Liberman to “clean up” his party’s image.
Misezhnikov, 43, who first entered the Knesset in 2006 and was appointed minister of tourism in 2009, became embroiled in controversy in early September after a former bodyguard of his alleged that the minister regularly drank to excess, visited strip clubs and practiced a party-oriented, after-hours lifestyle. Misezhnikov denied the charges, although he admitted he “loved to go out” and was “not embarrassed to sit and have a drink.”
On Monday, Michaeli announced her departure from politics as well, citing “personal reasons.”
Michaeli, who entered the Knesset in 2009, was involved in several high-profile, controversial incidents during her term, including throwing a cup of water at Labor MK Raleb Majadele earlier this year and a physical altercation with Balad MK Hanin Zoabi in 2010. In June of this year she again made headlines after a series of comments about homosexuality.
In late October, Yisrael Beytenu signed an agreement to run together with the Likud in the January 22 general elections. The parties will run on a joint list with one Yisrael Beytenu MK for every two Likud members. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Liberman will take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, and the remaining seats won will be divided between the two factions on a two to one basis, approximately reflecting the parties’ respective strengths in the outgoing Knesset (where the Likud had 27 seats and Yisrael Beytenu 15): No. 3 and No. 4 on the list will be Likud members, and No. 5 will be a Yisrael Beytenu representative, and so on down the line.
The Yisrael Beytenu’s Knesset list is rounded off, in slots 10-15, with Hamad Amar, Shimon Ohayon, Alex Miller, Leon Litintzki, Yulia Melinovski, and in 15th place, Smadar Bat-Adam Leviatan.