MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who holds the second slot on the Otzma Yisrael list, explains his platform, responding to a number of questions including why he and his colleagues did not join with HaBayit HaYehudi.
The following responses were sent to YWN-ISRAEL by Dr. Ben-Ari.
Why doesn’t Otzma Yisrael and Bayit HaYehudi join together?
Bayit HaYehudi does not want us, quoting Bayit HaYehudi’s MK Uri Orbach in his reference to Ben-Ari saying “He isn’t a religious Zionist”.
In every closed forum Naftali Bennett says he does not wish to join with us. Moti Yogev, a member of the Bayit Yehudi list tried to establish a dialogue between us and he can attest to the accuracy of my statements.
Secondly, Naftali Bennett does not share our ideology. He is interested in joining a Netanyahu-led government which has not retracted its support for the two-state solution despite the fact the coalition will discuss the establishment of a Palestinian State. Bennett refuses to define his red line regarding inclusion in the government coalition. Eldad and I on the other hand will not play any role in a coalition, at any price, that presents a plan which will destroy settlements and include negotiations towards the establishment of Palestine. Additionally, Bennett speaks about supporting autonomy for the Arabs including granting citizenship. We do not see eye to eye on these issues and oppose autonomy as it is envisioned by Likud. We reject Bennett’s solution for the situation throughout Yehuda and Shomron.”
Are the only differences between you and Bayit Yehuda pertaining to Eretz Yisrael?
To my sorrow, the response is no. Bennett and his people are doing fantastic work regarding the election campaign and saying the correct things for their potential voters. Nevertheless, there are many issues upon which we do not agree. There is major disagreement between us regarding giyur, the state conversions and the religious status quo regarding Shabbos. While some of the Bayit HaYehudi members are former Ichud HaLeumi members, such as Uri Ariel and Rabbi Eliyahu Dahan, and while Uri is a dear friend, Bennett’s clarification regarding insubordination in the military has painted yet another line that divides us.
Isn’t there a fear that you will not pass the minimum threshold to enter Knesset?
Yes, this fear is real. Permit me to remind you that in the last elections, Ichud HaLeumi in many polls showed it would not pass minimum threshold and at the end of the process we received three seats and the Bayit HaYehudi four. In the end, I entered Knesset and Slomiansky remained outside. In most polls today however, we do clear the minimum required. In most polls we receive between two and four seats.
You yourself state you will receive between 2 and 4 seats. What can such a small number of MKs accomplish in Knesset?
Our presence in the outgoing Knesset shows just what a small number of MKs is capable of accomplishing. One MK can prevent an entire Knesset from making a move and this is our challenge as the right-wing, at the end of the day to remain firm to our ideology.
In the event that we are not there, there will not be a true right-wing representative. The Bayit HaYehudi will join a coalition government led by Netanyahu and it will compel the party to join the negotiations with our enemies. In all of his public addresses Mr. Netanyahu expresses his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. They will be a partner in the destruction of outposts. There is not such creature, to remain a member of the coalition while not supporting it.
When Bayit HaYehudi received funds for yeshivot and ulpanot (dati leumi girl’s high schools), while other MKs were busy with nonsense, deal-making, travel abroad, and cocktail parties, we were out there and we served as the conscience of the Knesset. Without us, Danny Danon would not be the same Danny Danon and Ze’ev Elkin would not be the same Ze’ev Elkin. Members of Bayit Yehudi would also feel freed to remain in a government coalition that freezes construction and destroyed communities like Migron.
You mention Danon and Elkin who have since joined Moshe Feiglin. Why not join them?
It appears to me that the answer to that question is quite clear. During the last Knesset with the Likud majority and today remain in Likud highlights just how critical our presence is. I have the utmost respect for Moshe Feiglin but Netanyahu was surrounded by what he perceived is right-wing led many processes, delivering a number of blows to yishuvim. His blows to the yishuvim in the outing administration were unprecedented. Even his predecessors never dreamed of accepting a construction freeze throughout Yehuda and Shomron while his statements prove he is establishing the State of Palestine. His actions speak louder than words.
Don’t you trust Lieberman? Your campaign is similar to his from four years ago.
Lieberman during the past years have proven that for him, it all comes down to talk, nothing more. He makes fierce declarations regarding MKs from Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al but it remains there. As a central coalition player said, ‘when he enters a room, he becomes a ‘paper tiger’.
Take for example his statements to expand the list of organizations classified as terrorist organizations, to include the Israel Islamic Association of Sheikh Raid Salah, to make that group illegal. Who opposed that move, Lieberman’s own people!
I called for a bill compelling High Court of Justice justices to have served in the IDF or national service, the bill dubbed Jubran Law, Lieberman’s people opposed. When I proposed the Theater Bill against the artists who came out harshly against the state, once again it was Lieberman’s people opposing, led by Likud’s Limor Livnat.
What goals is Otzma Yisrael setting for the next Knesset?
We are heading into a critical period. There will be enormous pressure exerted on Israel to compromise national interests. Netanyahu in the past four years busied himself with laying the groundwork for a Palestinian state. He will enter an accelerated negotiating process to set final borders, expel 100,000 Jews from their homes, while Bayit HaYehudi and Likud remain in the cabinet.
We will be a right-wing warning sign outside of the government. We will lead MKs in the correct direction. When Mr. Netanyahu continues to destroy outposts, like Givat Assaf and Amona, we will stand in opposition to challenge their ‘right-wing’ with no-confidence motions. I would like to remind everyone of the Sharon administration that received the support until the last moment from both Ichud HaLeumi and the National Religious Party, refusing to resign from the cabinet. They clung to their cabinet posts until Sharon threw them out. He used them to advance the entire expulsion process. After he was done, he brought in the chareidim and ousted them. If we are not there, warning against the next catastrophe, who will be there? I remind everyone that Netanyahu clings to the two-state solution and settlement blocs. These plans are remarkably similar to Bennett’s outline. It should warn us that once again the National Religious Party will revert back to those days and his “influence from inside” will address jobs and budgets while the coalition compromises on national interests. Anyone seeking a clue can simply take the comments by Eilat Shaked, who stated “take a pain killer but remain in the government if it destroys a Yishuv like Migron.”
So we should vote for you just to serve as a warning sign?
The response is yes. Without an ideological right-wing, without people who cannot be bought out, those who will not lose sight of the correct path, the jobs, money, power and influence will blind the eyes of the best of them. We saw the right-wing minister such as Rabbi Dr. Hershkowitz who should have saved the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El and other outposts, promising to do just that, but at the last moment, they collapsed and shunned us, fighting to maintain their cabinet positions and with their actions prepared the saws that dismantled the Ulpana homes and ousting the families from Beit HaMachpelah.
Without us the right-wing will once again become a contractor of destruction like we saw in Gush Katif, the Wye Agreement, when the shouts were not heard, falling on deaf ears. The cries were not heard in the plenum, and not as they tried to sabotage the destruction mechanism, not at committee meetings. The best of them explained to us this was the only way towards preserving the settlement movement.
When Gilad Erdan was responsible for explaining Mr. Netanyahu’s actions, or other dynamic personalities like him, as today during the campaign they support joining a coalition, and they are laying the groundwork for the next destruction as they prepare their explanations. Remember, Bayit HaYehudi refuses to date to announce its red lines regarding entering a coalition government.
Do the small parties have any influence?
Small or large is dependent on you, the voters. Take for example ephemeral Meretz Party that for the past 30 years has been leading the public agenda because it clings to its uncompromising ideology. They encouraged Rabin with Oslo, they dream of the establishment of the State of Palestine terror state alongside Israel, fulfilled by the Likud Sharon and Bibi government in Gaza. Now Bibi races to complete the job, referring to what he calls generous concessions.
I did not hear Naftali Bennett’s ideological conditions or his red line for entering a Netanyahu coalition such as adopting the Edmond Levy report calling to legalize outposts – not to mention the vision of a two-state solution.
We will be there opposed, not stuttering. We will lead the opposition to any and all evictions. We will support insubordination with hesitation when it comes to evicting Jews. We will not strive to be liked or loved like the dati leumi, those proud of playing a role in the expulsion of Jews because that was the order given. To our sorrow, they won’t hesitate to do it again.
My experience shoes if they were a partner in ousting Jews in the past because it was the order given and they won’t hesitate to do it again.
It has been my experience that one must adopt a proud and determined stance, resulting in many condemnations and vilification. It is worthy for all of you to hear and understand this.
On a personal note, we lack the funding and don’t embrace the media that the other parties merit. Certain members of the press boycott us, both radio and television, while other parties receive coverage. We need your support today in order to be the voice tomorrow, for we are the right-wing. We aren’t the moderate or balanced right, but regarding our party, the media loves calling us the radical right-wing and davka because of this bias we need your votes. We are not for sale and will not be bought for those clinging to their positions like Bennett, Orbach or Ariel. We will be strong as a fortress to remain true to the ideals. We are needed to fight the enemy from within like Hanin Zoabi and Raid Salah – to save the nation from the conquerors from within who don’t even have to fire a single shot.
If we are not there, there may be dati leumi yeshiva funding, perhaps new Chief Rabbis will be appointed, perhaps Uri Orbach will actualize his vision of delivering a blow to the chareidim. However without us, there is a doubt if there will even be a state in another 30 years.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)