Leading Likudnik Gideon Saar stepping away from politics

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Interior Minister Gideon Saar, touted as the favorite to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, said he will “take a break” from politics.

Saar, citing family reasons, made the surprise announcement in front of hundreds of members of the Likud Party at a pre-Rosh Hashanah toast on Wednesday. He said he will quit his ministerial post and the Knesset after the holidays.

“Sometimes you have to take your personal life into account,” said Saar, the father of a newborn son. “I want privacy, quiet, freedom and to spend more time at home. I think it’s the right thing to do for my loved ones.”

Saar’s wife, Channel 1 news anchor Geula Even, was suspended recently for violating an order not to interview Likud ministers due to conflict of interest. The couple married last year.

Saar stressed at the party that he would remain in Likud, which with his departure will drop to 18 Knesset seats — one less than Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

Leon Litnetsky of Yisrael Beiteinu, which is in the government on a combined list with Likud, will replace Saar.