Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar to Take 'Time-out' From Political Life

Likud No. 2 to take break from cabinet and Knesset after the Jewish holidays.

Moti Milrod

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced Wednesday evening that he would be taking a "time-out" from political life.

Sa'ar, who is No. 2 in the Likud party behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he would resign from both the cabinet and the Knesset after the Jewish holidays.

"I have decided to take a break from political life," Sa'ar told Likud members at a party toast for the new year at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan. "I would like to deal with various other challenges, maybe enjoy myself. Over the past two years, including on the backdrop of changes in my personal life, I have many times considered taking a break from public life. It's tough to leave." 

"There are always reasons not to do it. The truth, and we have agreed that tonight we are speaking only the truth, is that I considered doing this two years ago. Our friend [former Likud Communications Minister] Moshe Kahlon got there first and I didn't want to do it before the elections. I couldn't do the same thing. I wanted to do it [again] nine-and-a-half months ago, when my son was born."

"I am leaving my job, but I am not leaving you," said Sa'ar. "I am a member of Likud and will remain in the Likud."

In his speech, Sa'ar also took aim at the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over the high cost of living in Israel. Sa'ar, a former education minister, called on the cabinet not to slash funding for education, social services or health care, saying the government "must not harm the weak segments of the population" that voted for Likud time and again. "Let us not disappoint them," he said.

The announcement came two days after Sa'ar's wife, television news anchor Geula Even, was suspended from the Channel 1 news show "Hamusaf" after she violated a recent ban on interviewing any Likud lawmakers, including her husband.

Her violation came in an interview this week with MK Gila Gamliel of Likud, a leading candidate to replace Communications Minister Gilad Erdan if he is appointed Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

A hearing had been scheduled for Sunday to discuss the suspension. But Sa'ar's break from political life means that Even will be able to return to her position, Channel 1 News director Ayala Hasson said Wednesday.

"Geula Even is an excellent journalist, and now, when all conflicts of interest have been removed, she will return to her post without any restrictions," Hasson said.