Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel wrote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a resignation letter today stating, "I thank you for your trust and the joint work under your leadership, and hope and pray that that the next minister of agriculture, together with you, will continue to promote farmers and agriculture for the glory of Israel." Ariel did not state the reasons for his resignation, but said that it was in pursuance of their talk, meaning that Netanyahu apparently asked him to resign. It was reported that Netanyahu explained to Ariel that four ministers was too many for a party with seven Knesset seats. The Yamina Party will have three ministers after the unexpected appointment of Naftali Bennett as Minister of Defense last week, whith Rafael Peretz as minister of education and Bezalel Smotrich as minister of transport.
There are two other possible explanations for Netanyahu's action, if he indeed asked Ariel to resign. The first is to prevent a court petition against Bennett's appointment as minister of defense on the grounds that the number of ministers in the government cannot be increased in the current situation. The second is making room for appointment of another minister from the Likud Party, perhaps Yoav Kisch, who was embittered about the choice of the chairman of the Likud Knesset faction, and who regarded himself as a candidate for a senior position.
Ariel lost to Bezalel Smotrich in the internal elections for head of the National Union Party, after which he announced his retirement from politics. Due to the deadlock in negotiations for forming a new government, however, and the extension of the temporary government's term, he is still serving in the government. His resignation ends a 30-year career in public service that began as secretary-general of the Judea and Samaria Council. He entered the Knesset following the assassination of the late Maj. Gen. (res.) Rechavam Ze'evi in October 2001, and served as an MK continuously until the elections in April 2019. He entered the cabinet formed after the 2013 elections as part of the Jewish Home Party, headed by Naftali Bennett, becoming Minister of Construction and Housing. He was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development after the elections in 2015, and stayed in office until this week.
The Israel Farmers Association published an announcement thanking Ariel for his service and personal and important contribution to Israeli agriculture. The announcement asked Netanyahu to immediately appoint a full-time minister of agriculture, saying that Israeli agriculture faced challenges and difficulties requiring a minister who would devote all of his or her efforts to rescuing and strengthening Israeli agriculture. The Farmers Association warned against an unfitting political appointment, saying, "We hope that the appointment of a minister of agriculture will not become another political football, but will demonstrate national responsibility for preserving and developing Israeli agriculture."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 10, 2019
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