Social Services Minister and Labor lawmaker Itzik Shmuli announced on Wednesday that he will be taking "a time out" from politics and resign from the government, ahead of Israel's March 23 election.
Shmuli, together with Economy and Industry Minister Amir Peretz, had joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government after Israel's 2020 election, despite campaign promises not to do so. Newly elected Labor leader, Merav Michaeli, had ordered both to resign immediately a day after she won the leadership primary on January 24 with 77 percent of the vote.
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In a Facebook post, Shmuli said he had decided to join the Netanyahu-led government "out of a sense of national responsibility" amid the coronavirus crisis. "I didn't think Netanyahu would change," he said, "but I was convinced that while a deadly pandemic is raging and the economy is falling apart, this would really be for the good of the state."
But, Shmuli said, "it was a mistake. And leaders should also be able to admit they were wrong and take responsibility."
Over the past few days, Shmuli has been in talks with representatives of Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan about his potentially joining the party, but these did not materialize.
Shmuli initially planned to run for Labor leadership, but quit the race before the primary vote last month.
For his part, Former Labor Chairman Peretz announced his resignation from the party and the Knesset last Tuesday following Michaeli's win and her order that Peretz and Shmuli resign from the government. But in an act of definance, Peretz decided to stay on as a minister under Netaynahu until a new government is formed after the March 23 election, Israel's fourth in two years.
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A Channel 13 News poll published Tuesday gave Labor eight Knesset seats, as the party seems to continue to gain confidence under the leadership of new Chairwoman Michaeli. Tuesday's poll represents an increase from the four to five projected seats it was awarded in previous polls, and significantly more than its current Knesset representation of three seats.