JERUSALEM, May 19 (JTA) — Hawkish Israeli legislator Ze’ev “Benny” Begin has announced he is resigning from politics. Begin, who withdrew from the race for prime minister one day before Israelis went to the polls this week, said Wednesday he had decided on the move because his National Unity Party won only three Knesset seats in Monday’s vote. “I am a public servant with no public,” Begin said. “Because of the limited benefit I see in my continued service, I concluded it is better that I cease my activities in public life.” Begin, son of the late Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin, is a geologist by training who served in the Knesset since 1988. He was science minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until he resigned the post in January 1997 to protest the Hebron Agreement, under which Israel turned over most of the West Bank town to Palestinian control. As leader of the National Unity Party, a coalition of right-wing legislators opposed to the Oslo accords, he would have been able to assume one of the three Knesset seats the party won in Monday’s vote. Despite his hawkish views, Begin was uniformly admired by fellow legislators for his directness and integrity. Yossi Sarid, leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, said Wednesday he was deeply saddened by Begin’s decision and called on him to retract it. Labor Party Knesset member Dalia Itzik said Begin was a symbol of integrity and his departure would be a blow to public life. Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin said the resignation symbolized the demise of Israel’s nationalist camp.
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