Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel on Sunday informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he was resigning his position. “I thank you for the confidence you had in me and for the cooperation that you provided,” Ariel wrote in a letter to Netanyahu. “I hope and pray that the next Agriculture Minister will work with you to advance the interests of farming and agriculture for the benefit of the state.”
Ariel began serving as Agriculture Minister in the 20th Knesset, which began its term in 2015, and has served in that position throughout that government and subsequent ones. At the time, he was head of the National Union party. He remained as Minister after the 22nd Knesset dispersed itself before the April 2019 elections, even though he did not vie for a Knesset spot on any party list. Netanyahu kept him on even as he fired Ariel’s party mates, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, from their posts as Education and Justice Ministers respectively. Altogether between his time as aמ MK and a minister, Ariel has served over 20 years in government service.
Several media outlets reported that Ariel was asked to resign by Netanyahu, in order to quell dissatisfaction in the Likud. On Sunday, the cabinet approved the appointment of Naftali Bennett as Defense Minister – giving the Yamina party (now split into two factions) a total of four ministries: Ariel at Agriculture, Betzalel Smotrich as Transportation Minister, Rafi Peretz as Education Minister, and Bennett – for a party that brought only seven seats to the Knesset. Netanyahu is said to be mulling several Likud MKs for the post, including MK David Bitan.
In a backhanded “compliment” describing Ariel’s career, Zehava Gal-on, chairperson of the far-left Meretz faction, said “Uri Ariel had a key position in the politics of the settlers. He was a ‘smart bulldozer’ who redeemed lands, and used every possible ‘trick’ to advance settlements. He did these things in a very clever way, using dishonesty and backhanded tactics, working with institutions and making deals with a ‘wink,’” she added.