JERUSALEM — Health Minister Chaim Ramon resigned Sunday after Labor Party apparatchiks blocked his attempt to reform Israel's health system.
"I told the Cabinet that I can no longer take responsibility for the health system," Ramon said on Israel Radio. The resignation, made in writing and read out by Ramon at the weekly Cabinet session, goes into effect Tuesday.
Ramon's proposal aimed at guaranteeing citizens basic medical services regardless of income or employment status.
"I am obligated to the voter, to the public and also to myself," Ramon said. "If I did not do what I did today I would find it very hard to live with myself."
Ramon's plan easily passed the first of its three required votes in Parliament.
But the Cabinet withdrew the proposal last week after the Labor Party, the dominant partner in the coalition government, came under pressure from Histadrut, the trade union that represents about 60% of Israel's workers.
Histadrut owns the country's largest health care organization, which relies on government handouts to stay afloat. Most of Histadrut's officials are members of the Labor Party.
Ramon's plan would have cut subsidies to such organizations.
The plan called for Israelis to pay a health tax of 4.8% of their income. Many Israelis now pay a similar amount, an average of about $650 annually, to various health funds that run clinics and fund hospitalization in some cases. But the funds are not required to accept all applicants, and an estimated 350,000 Israelis are uninsured.
The demise of the health bill was seen as a personal defeat for Ramon, a leader of Labor's free market-oriented Young Turks, and a setback for efforts to reform still-dominant socialist holdovers from Zionism's early days, such as the Histadrut.
Commentators also said his stance might help him in the struggle to take over the party once the current generation of leaders retires.