Balad MK Wasil Taha surprised his fellow party members and supporters on Saturday by announcing he does not intend to run in the upcoming general elections.
Taha, who served for two terms as a Balad MK, said the time had come for him to vacate his seat and serve society and the party elsewhere.
Balad is set to hold its primary elections next week, to determine the party's roster for the 18th Knesset elections. The support for Taha in the Arab street guaranteed him a surefire top spot on the list, but he chose to step down despite this.
"I have served as an MK for two terms, before that I served for 10 years as chairman of a municipality," said Taha, "now I will vacate my seat, the time has come to let others have their say."
Taha called on the 119 Knesset members who served alongside him since the last elections, and said "you can also contribute to society and your party without the seat. I say this to MKs who have been in their seats for years upon years – learn from me.
"I want to pass the torch on. It's important to remember that leadership should be exemplary. It's true that
the Knesset is an important pulpit for us, but there is a time to get up and leave."
Since his announcement Taha has been flooded with phone calls from party members and supporters asking him to change his mind.
He has so far only thanked callers for their support, and told them he still intends to work towards strengthening the party ahead of the elections. Taha confirmed he will remain part of Balad's leadership, though not as an MK.
Roee Nahmias contributed to this report