Voted-out MKs Discover There’s Life After Lawmaking

For former parliamentarians like Nitzan Horowitz, the offers keep rolling in. And besides, ‘one’s livelihood comes from heaven,’ as Eli Yishai puts it.

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Eli Yishai
Eli YishaiCredit: Emil Salman

For the first time in years, Eli Yishai — a former minister, deputy prime minister, security cabinet member and head of the Shas party — walked around his Jerusalem neighborhood like an ordinary mortal. He has been forced to part with his state-funded assistants and security people; if he keeps getting threatened and harassed, as was the case during the election campaign, he’ll have to turn to the police.

But Yishai, whose Yahad party captured 125,000 votes and missed the Knesset by only a few thousand ballots, isn’t planning a life after politics just yet. He has three missions to fulfill.

Outgoing MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Israel's only openly gay legislator, April 30, 2012. Credit: Emil Salman

First, he’s keen to prove that voting irregularities (“organized crime,” as he put it) denied his party its rightful place in the Knesset. He has hired lawyers to pursue the matter in court.

Habayit Hayehudi MK Orit Strock during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hearing, December 8, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Yishai has also set up a nonprofit group to raise funds from the public to cover the huge debts that he and former MK Yoni Chetboun ran up during the campaign. The main thing is to pay the campaign staff.

Finally, Yishai will somehow try to maintain Yahad as a political party until the next general election, whenever that may be.

“It’s true we didn’t cross [the electoral threshold] because of organized crime that was committed against us, but the party got 125,000 votes,” he told Haaretz. “That’s an amazing achievement. The party will continue and I will continue to preserve and build it. We’ll run for the next Knesset and succeed.”

So how will he make a living? Associates say he has received offers from a number of companies.

“It’ll be fine,” Yishai said. “One’s livelihood comes from heaven.”

Meanwhile, Nitzan Horowitz was a Meretz MK for six years; a year and a half ago he ran for Tel Aviv mayor and lost. When last month’s election was called, he announced he wouldn’t run again.

Horowitz, the only openly gay man in the last two Knessets, was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the last Knesset. In the previous one he headed the Committee on Foreign Workers.

He was closely identified with civic and environmental issues. Among the laws he initiated were the one that extended daylight saving time and the Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors.

Horowitz says he has received all sorts of offers for jobs and projects both at home and abroad. But he’s in no rush to accept anything.

“I’m writing a few things, I don’t know yet, we’ll see,” he said. “It’s a transitional period and I’m sure some very successful things will come together soon.”

Horowitz, a former top journalist at Army Radio, the defunct Hadashot newspaper, Haaretz and Channel 10, doesn’t rule out a return to the media and writing.

“I will undoubtedly remain in the public arena,” he said. “I’ve always been in the public arena. And certainly given the results of the last election, there’s a need for serious public activism, so I plan to be there.”

He says he won’t miss the Knesset. “There are many realms of public influence and action, and it’s important to try to exert that influence from different directions, because that’s the only way to achieve innovation and change,” he said.

Transitions are particularly important in politics, he added.

“Certainly in politics it’s important to make a change after a few years and look at things from a different angle,” he said. “It’s neither proper nor desirable to get stuck to one’s seat.”

Orit Strock, a member of the Tekuma faction of the Habayit Hayehudi party, will only decide what comes next after Passover. As No. 13 on the Habayit Hayehudi slate, she expected to remain in the Knesset, but the party’s last-minute nosedive left her out of the legislature.

Strock, a resident of Hebron, formerly headed the Human Rights Organization in Judea and Samaria and is a leader of Hebron’s Jewish community, having served for years as a spokeswoman. She is expected to continue her public activism.

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