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MK Yossi Beilin, who was chairman of the Meretz-Yahad party until a year ago, announced yesterday he is quitting politics and will resign from the Knesset in the next few days.

He has decided not to run for a place on the Meretz Knesset ticket in the upcoming elections. "Yossi Beilin is among the most important leaders, who molded a path that today the vast majority of Israelis support," said Meretz chairman Haim Oron. "I hope and believe that his daring and original way of thinking will continue to serve Israel and Meretz in the future."

Beilin said he plans to go into business now, though sources close to him say he will continue to be involved in public life and promote the Geneva peace initiative, of which he was a key architect.

Beilin is the third chairman to quit both the party and politics in general, following in the footsteps of Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid.

Beilin joined Meretz before the 2003 election, after failing to win a realistic place on the Labor Party list for the Knesset. He had spent more than two decades in Labor.

In 2003, Beilin, along with Palestinians including Yassir Abed Rabo, formulated the Geneva initiative. Its publication created a political storm when it came out during the second intifada. The right wing accused Beilin of conducting an independent foreign policy undermining the national interest. But the peace plan became a symbol of Meretz under Beilin's leadership.

After Sarid left the post of Meretz chairman, Beilin beat out Ran Cohen for the job. In the 2006 elections, a Beilin-led Meretz continued to shrink. It won only five seats, compared to its peak of 12 Knesset members.

Beilin did not run in the March 2008 primary for Meretz chairman, giving his support to Oron in his race against Cohen.

Beilin has a doctorate in political science, and joined the Labor Party in 1977 as the party spokesman. He was elected to the Knesset for the first time in 1988, and was appointed justice minister by Ehud Barak in 1999.