JERUSALEM (JTA) — In a surprise move, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list.
The move announced Tuesday by Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s foreign minister, rocked the country’s political arena, since Ayalon was believed to have a close relationship with his boss.
Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, is not the first Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker to leave in recent days.
Earlier Tuesday, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said he would not run in the Jan. 22 Knesset elections while denying that he had been pushed out of the party by Liberman. Misezhniko called for the new government to be "a secular government without the black politics of the haredi parties."
On Monday, Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Anastassia Michaeli cited "personal reasons" for not running after being informed by Liberman that she would have a low spot on the list.
Yisrael Beiteinu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party agreed in October to merge their party lists for the election. Every two Likud names on the list will be followed by a Yisrael Beiteinu name, which maintains the same balance as in the current government — 27 seats for Likud and 15 for Yisrael Beiteinu.
Ayalon served as U.S. envoy from July 2002 through November 2006. He was elected to the Knesset in February 2009 on the Yisrael Beiteinu list and in April 2009 was appointed deputy foreign minister.