Zionist Union economist Trajtenberg quits Knesset

Zionist Union economist Trajtenberg quits Knesset

MK who was party's hope to be finance minister will be replaced by Druze activist Salah Sa'ad; gives no reason for resignation

Manuel Trajtenberg (R) presents Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with his official resignation from parliament as a Zionist Union MK, October 1, 2017. (Knesset Speaker)
Manuel Trajtenberg (R) presents Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with his official resignation from parliament as a Zionist Union MK, October 1, 2017. (Knesset Speaker)

Zionist Union MK Manuel Trajtenberg presented Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with his resignation from parliament Sunday morning, bringing an end to the economist’s two-year term as a lawmaker.

The move comes after Trajtenberg announced Thursday his intention to resign as a Knesset member for the Zionist Union, an amalgamation of the Labor Party and Hatnua.

His resignation will go into effect on Tuesday morning, 48 hours after his meeting with Edelstein, and he will be replaced by Druze activist Salah Sa’ad, who is next on the Labor electoral list.

Trajtenberg, who didn’t explain why he was resigning, is holding a press conference with Zionist Union chair Avi Gabbay on Sunday afternoon.

In a statement, Trajtenberg, a former professor at Tel Aviv University, said he would continue to support the Zionist Union in its attempts to oust the prime minister’s Likud party from power and would dedicate his time to formulating a new social economic vision for Israel.

“This is therefore a timeout and not a retirement from public life, and it is possible I will yet be able to return to political life itself,” he said.

He said it was “obvious, today, that Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister is reaching its bitter end,” referring to two ongoing corruption probes into the prime minister.

Sa’ad was elected to the Zionist Union list to fill the spot designated for a member of the Druze community. In the past he has served as the Histadrut national labor union local chair for the Galil region and now heads the Zionist-Druze Lobby group.

Druze activist Salah Sa’ad. (Courtesy)

“It’s a great honor for me to become a Knesset member,” Sa’ad told The Times of Israel Sunday. “I will serve as a voice for the Druze community and I will work tirelessly for all under privileged groups.”

There are currently two serving Druze Knesset members: Hamad Amar of Yisrael Beytenu and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara of Likud.

Trajtenberg, who in the run-up to the 2015 elections joined the Zionist Union, was tapped as the Labor Party’s pick for finance minister should it snatch enough seats to form a coalition. In that election, the Zionist Union was defeated by Likud and has remained in the opposition since.

“As is known, the 2015 elections did not usher that in, and so I found myself in the opposition benches, adapting to a difficult transition from the role of formulating and implementing policies to parliamentary work,” Trajtenberg wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday after announcing his intention to resign as a Knesset member.

The economist, who holds a PhD from Harvard and immigrated from Argentina as a teenager, headed a special committee established following social justice protests in the summer of 2011. At the time, he was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with leaders of a popular protest movement and to draft recommendations in response to their demands.

Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni (left), Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (center) and noted economics reformer Professor Manuel Trajtenberg at a press conference on December 31, 2014 announcing Trajtenberg’s participation in the joint Labor-Hatnua list for the March 2015 Knesset elections. (photo credit: Amir Levy/Flash90)

From 2006 to 2009, he served as chief economic adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office as the chair of the National Economic Council.

As an MK, Trajtenberg was a member of the Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee and the party’s economic voice in criticizing the state budget and the gas deal allowing a two-company consortium to begin extracting gas from the massive Leviathan gas field off Israel’s coast.

In a memorable incident during his tenure as lawmaker, Trajtenberg in December 2016 stripped down to his undershirt in solidarity with his parliamentary aide — one of dozens who were refused entry into the Knesset over their skirt lengths. “Tomorrow you will all be wearing burkas,” he shouted ironically to the protesters.

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