The Israel Our Home secretariat decided Wednesday evening that Knesset Member Yitzhak Aharonovitch would be appointed tourism minister instead of MK Esterina Tartman.
Aharonovitch, 57, served as deputy police commissioner between the years 2002 and 2004. He currently serves as deputy Knesset speaker and as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The decision was made following a series of revelations about Tartman making false claims about her academic degrees.
Israel Our Home chairman, Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said following the faction meeting, "I fully back MK Esterina Tartman. We are talking about the person who spoke the truth and nothing but the truth from the beginning to the end.
"There were some faults, perhaps there were things that were not weighed to the fullest while talking or while arguing, but at the end of the day Esterina Tartman is a woman, she lives in Givon Hahadasha and she is a major in the army.
"I heard the Education Ministry's announcement, not ours, that she holds a Bachelor's degree. She worked at Bank Yahav and she is also the most prominent Knesset member among all the new MKs in the 17th Knesset."
Tartman stole the show when she said, while Lieberman was still addressing reporters, "I can speak for myself."
Speaking after Lieberman, she said, "My character was assassinated. The media is an important body, but it is also committed to decency and integrity.
"You have a lot of power in your hands, but I am turning to you for the sake of all those whom you have not yet 'hunted.' Not everyone is as strong. Your duty is to put things in proportion and not to make a bid deal out of everything.
"I will not be broken by the media this time. There is also no reason for the media to break me. I regret the fact that no one bothered to check the basic facts in the face of mountains of chatter, lies and half-truths.
Tartman and Leiberman during press conference (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
"Those who think I will give up are wrong. My good name is important to me and the facts are on my side," Tartman said in response to allegations of dishonesty. "I'm being slandered. The media, as well as the public, are required to act fairly and honestly."
Addressing the fabrication of her academic degrees, she continued, "I sat at Bar Ilan University for three years. I admit that I did not express myself correctly. I am taking this opportunity to admit this. My initial professional studies in the field of banking, finance and economic were at Bar Ilan University. They were certification studies. Three years of studies with certificates and a diploma.
"I went on to study for a Master's degree, but I never mentioned the Hebrew University. There is no way that anyone can prove that I spoke about the Hebrew University. I was mistaken when I said I had a Master's degree. If I had only added the word 'studies' there would have been no problem, as I did complete my BA with honors.
"Unfortunately, my accident made it difficult for me to continue. I wrote a letter to the faculty dean and asked him to let me put my studies on hold. This appeal was made for personal medical reasons, and you all know that it was because of the accident."
Meanwhile, Esterina Tratman's honesty came under fire once more Wednesday, after a Ynet expose revealed she went on trial four years ago after causing a traffic accident and trying to flee the scene.
In May 2002, Tartman hit a pedestrian at a crosswalk in Jerusalem. Witnesses reported that "she asked to keep driving, since she didn't believe she was involved." She only stopped when one witness ran after her and threatened to call the police, they said.
The traffic court judge Avraham Tennenbaum said that the witness testimonies indicated that "an accident had been caused, for which she was responsible."
Tratman was convicted of causing injury through negligence. She was fined NIS 3,000 (about $700) and had her license revoked for a year and a half.
The pedestrian, Gideon Shoshani, told Ynet: "She hit me and ran, people chased her and stopped her. She said she hadn't hit me. All through the trial, she didn't tell the truth, but the judge believed differently."
During the trial, Tartman insisted that she had not hit Shoshani. Her attorney said "Shoshani was not hit by the vehicle, but rather slipped and fell as he was crossing at the crosswalk and leaned onto the vehicle."
Tartman, who repeatedly asserted that Shoshani had slipped, said that he had accused her of causing an accident in order to receive insurance money.
Judge Tennenbaum ruled that "the defendant (Tartman) hit the pedestrian because of negligence. As such, she is convicted of the allegations – among them causing injury."
"Moreover, it's possible that she was unaware of hitting the complainant. Shoshani claimed in court and in his police statement that he learned from witnesses that the defendant had been talking on her cell phone at the time of the accident.
"Therefore, it is possible that she was not paying sufficient attention to the road and was unaware of the accident."
Tennenbaum said his decision was strongly influenced by Tartman's record of reckless driving, which, in addition to an accident in 1997, includes several speeding tickets, three tickets for running a stop sign, and many other traffic violations.
Aviram Zino and Yaron Druckman contributed to this report