Zionist Union MK who was party’s pick for treasurer quits Knesset
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Zionist Union MK who was party’s pick for treasurer quits Knesset

Noted economist Manuel Trajtenberg says he will formulate new economic vision for country, since it's 'obvious' Netanyahu's tenure coming to 'bitter end'

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Zionist Union MK Manuel Trajtenberg attends a conference organized by Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem on July 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Manuel Trajtenberg attends a conference organized by Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem on July 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two years after entering the Knesset, Zionist Union MK Manuel Trajtenberg, a respected economist, announced on Thursday he was quitting Israel’s parliament.

Trajtenberg, who in the run-up to the 2015 elections joined the Zionist Union, was tapped as the party’s pick for finance minister should it snatch enough seats to form a coalition. In that election, the Zionist Union– which is made up of the Labor and Hatnua parties — was defeated by the 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 explaining his decision.

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.

In his 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 time out 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.

“Moreover, the election of Avi Gabbay [as Labor party leader] has brought with it a new spirit, determination, and hope for the Labor party and the Zionist Union, and therefore the potential for a government change is closer than ever,” he added.

In a statement, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said he was “very sad to hear” of Trajtenberg’s resignation.

The MK will be replaced by Druze activist Salah Sa’ad, who is next on the Labor party list.

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 burqas,” he shouted ironically to the protesters.

 

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