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Israeli senior minister 'surprisingly' resigns

Israeli Internal Affairs Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced on Wednesday evening his decision to take a "time-out" from political life, Israeli media reported.

Anadolu news agency quoted Sa'ar as saying: "I want to spent time with my family in the near future. After the holidays I will be resigning from the Knesset and from the government."

He continued: "I wish from now on to live a different life than the political one, and to face fresh and different challenges and maybe to even enjoy myself a little," adding that "I wanted to do this nine and a half months ago."

Israeli observers said that Sa'ar had been marked as a future candidate for the Likud party leadership and the Israeli premiership, but believe he could still compete for these leadership positions. He notably did not mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech, suggesting that perhaps the minister was quitting because of tension between him and Netanyahu.

According to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, "Sa'ar stressed that he was staying in the Likud, leading to speculation that he would seek the party chairmanship after Netanyahu would leave politics or challenge him for the Likud leadership whenever the next primary will be."

Likud activists reportedly expressed sorrow over Sa'ar's resignation from the government, describing the step as "big loss".

Meanwhile, Israeli media debated the future of Likud amidst its internal crises and divisions between two camps: one behind Netanyahu and the other behind Danny Danon. Sa'ar's resignation could strengthen opposition to Netanyahu inside the party.

Commenting on Sa'ar's resignation, Anadolu quoted Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman as saying: "In his years in the government, Sa'ar fulfilled his roles as education minister and internal affairs minister in the best way possible, and he was one of the prominent ministers."

He added: "His resignation is a loss to the government and I hope that he continues to contribute to public life in Israel."

The Jerusalem Post reported that opposition leader Isaac Herzog predicted Sa'ar's departure would expedite the crumbling of Likud. He said the fact that those who know Netanyahu best were leaving was a sign of no-confidence in him.

Former Knesset candidate Eldad Yaniv tweeted that one of the reasons for Sa'ar's departure is an investigation against him that would soon be published in Haaretz newspaper.

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