Mofaz says will take break from politics
After losing Kadima primaries to Livni, Mofaz tells supporters he will take a rest from politics, won't seek role in Knesset or government; he also informs Livni he won't attend meeting in which sources say she planned to ask him to cooperate in leading party
Speaking before his supporters in Givatayim, after being narrowly defeated by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the Kadima primary elections, Mofaz said, "Today my family members and I decided that it's time for a break
"I would like to make a decision regarding my future, examine additional ways to contribute to the State of Israel and to my family. I am not seeking a role or a position in the government or Knesset. I will remain a member of Kadima and will do my best for the party."
Mofaz later informed the newly elected chairwoman that he would not make it to their scheduled meeting on Friday.
Livni had scheduled a private meeting with Mofaz, and sources affiliated with the Kadima chairwoman said she planned to ask him to cooperate with her in leading the party.
After losing to Livni by 431 votes, Mofaz commented on Livni's win for the first time.
"I accept the election results and have no complaints against anyone and against those who did not elect me. I am not angry at the ministers and Knesset members who supported other contenders. I have no complaints against those who prepared election day and have no complaints against the media, pollsters or commentators," he said.
Mofaz wished the Israeli government and theState of Israel better days and a stable leadership, and said "I will remain incorrupt and honest according to my way and belief, a lover of Israel who believes in Israel's holiness and in our future in this land."
The transportation minister was greeted with applause and hugs as he entered the Kadima headquarters in Givatayim. He told his supporters that legal experts had advised him to appeal the results of the primaries due to flaws in the election process, but that he had decided not to do so.
"I decided that the State's best interest exceeds any personal desire, particularly when the boat moves over stormy waters. I am a democrat at heartspirit and I will honor any result.
"I accept the voter's ruling and wish Tzipi Livni success. The State's best interest stood before my eyes in any situation and in regards to any matter."
Supporters shocked by announcement
The Knesset members who had endorsed Mofaz and were present at the press conference were shocked by the dramatic announcement and looked at each other in complete surprise.
MK Otniel Schneller, who sat by the transportation minister's side during the press conference, told Ynet, "Mofaz told me he wants to take a break and then decide about his future. Let's hope he stays with us for many more years."
Mofaz's activists were also amazed, and some even broke into tears.
One of the activists said, "I am simply in shock, no one believed such a thing could happen. We hope we can convince him to stay. He is an asset to the State of Israel and he must not be allowed to leave under any circumstances."
Coalition chairman, Knesset Member Yoel Hasson, said in response to the announcement, "Although I supported Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz is a close and personal friend and I am deeply saddened by his decision.
"Mofaz made a great contribution to the State of Israel and I respect his decision, although I hope he will return to lead the State in the Kadima party in the future."
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter lamented Mofaz's decision, saying: "We served together – he as IDF chief of staff and I as Shin Bet chief, and I acknowledge his contribution to Israel's security. I plan to discuss his decision to take a break from politics with him."
Sources outside of Kadima also responded to Mofaz's announcement. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said, "I regret his decision. I know and respect his contribution in uniform and as a cabinet member." Yishai added that Mofaz still has more to contribute to the State.