Yair Gabai (left)
Yair Gabai (left)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Jerusalem politician Yair Gabai spoke to Arutz Sheva on Monday evening and explained why he chose to step down this week from his seat on the city council.

Gabai explained that he had switched his party affiliation from Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) – the party with which he was elected – to the Likud.

At the end of this week, each city council member will need to declare his or her party affiliation so that officials can calculate the funding each party will be eligible for in the next city elections. Under Israeli elections law, parties receive funding based on their current number of seats; the same is true for Knesset elections.

“As a member of the Likud movement it would not have been reasonable for me to identify as a Bayit Yehudi member. But I’m not a thief, so I gave the seat back to the party,” he said.

“My seat belongs to the Mafdal [party], so I did the right thing and gave the seat back to the people it belongs to,” he added.

Gabai was replaced by Herzl Yehezkel, an attorney who until now has served as a community leader in the Homat Shmuel neighborhood.

Members of Knesset often change their party allegiance after being elected on a party list, while retaining their Knesset seats. Among the more public changes made by MKs during the last Knesset were the decision by seven Kadima MKs to join former Kadima head Tzipi Livni in her new Hatnua party, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to split the Labor party and form a new faction, and MK Chaim Amsallem’s decision to split from Shas and serve as an independent MK.