Israeli Minister Resigns As Head of Jubilee Committee

Israeli Tourism Minister Moshe Katzav has resigned as government liaison for Israel’s 50th jubilee celebrations, citing negative comments about him from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Katzav told a news conference that he had also intended to step down from the Cabinet, but received an apology from the Prime Minister’s Office minutes before convening the conference.

Saying that “two horses cannot lead one carriage,” Katzav added, “I think from all this, the prime minister’s office should do some real soul-searching,” Katzav said.

Katzav’s resignation is the latest snag in preparations for Israel’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Three chairmen of the committee that was created to plan the events have stepped down during the past year, citing rancorous relations with Katzav, whom they accused of meddling.

Another turned down the position last week, two days after it was offered to her.

Committee members and Katzav have clashed with them over a number of issues, ranging from budgets to when and how the jubilee celebrations would be kicked off.

Katzav announced last year that President Ezer Weizman would announce the start of celebrations at the Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony.

Weizman refused, but following last-minute negotiations, ultimately agreed to “make mention” of Israel’s 50th year in his remarks at the ceremony.

Israeli media reports, meanwhile, cited sources in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to remove Katzav from his duties as government liaison for the celebrations, saying he had shown “ineptitude” in all the dealings on the matter.

“I think the best thing now is for the planning of the celebrations to go to one responsible body, the Prime Minister’s Office,” Katzav said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Katzav reportedly moved to disband the jubilee committee, recommending instead that individual ministries take on the responsibilities for planning the events.

This week, after a fourth candidate to chair the jubilee committee turned down the job, the prime minister appointed Doron Shmueli, a former member of the Tsomet Party, as chairman.

The committee announced that the jubilee celebrations would be officially launched at a Tu B’Shevat tree-planting ceremony later this month.

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