After the elections to the Knesset, 20th convocation of the commenters believed that the creation of a national unity government with the participation of block «Zionist camp» headed by Yitzchak Herzog is only a matter of time. However, the Union Netanyahu-the Duke did not take place, and the head of the parliamentary opposition is preparing for new elections.
In an interview with NEWSru.co.il Duke tells about the activities of the opposition, gives his prediction for the date of future elections and criticizes Lapid and Lieberman.
Mr. Duke, in a previous interview that you gave to our website shortly after the formation of the coalition, you said I remembered the phrase – «In Israel there is no government». The fact remains – the government is.
It is from a formal point of view, on paper. But this government is completely devoid of the ability to make decisions, to operate and direct the country. The government has no agenda, it is busy with only one thing – their own survival, and this is done at the expense of the interests of the Israeli citizens.
Eights months. Its main exam, the government has sustained a budget approved.
The budget is approved due to the fact that the government is handing out money to the representatives of different sectors that put pressure on him. Show me in which direction this government is moving our economy, what he wants to achieve, what are the sources of economic growth it offers. Nothing. The government entirely in the hands of haredim and settlers. The public sees this and makes relevant conclusions.
You talk about the distribution of money to sectors of the population, having the ability to put pressure on the government. But it’s not for me to tell you that this is normal political practice. It always happens during the budget debate.
Political practice is different. When I think of governments that implemented huge reform, we can confidently say that they are putting together the budget in such a way that it was aimed at the implementation of these reforms. This was reflected primarily in the order of priorities and in the allocation of funds. In the budget of the Netanyahu coalition is subordinated to all interests rather than the interests of society. This is reflected in other spheres of the current government. It was a total failure in all areas – from ensuring the security of citizens to solve economic and social problems.
I listen to you, and then open the papers and see surveys, in which a rating of «Likud» is growing, and the «Zionist camp» is losing the mandate.
I’m not sure you are right, and these polls reflect the real situation. Since the beginning of the government it took just eight months. The post-election haze gradually begins to subside and people find that in the end they got the same thing that happened before. They see that the economic situation is not improving, the situation in the sphere of security remains as heavy and only getting worse almost daily attacks on Israelis. All this cannot but affect the mood of the people. They are looking for an alternative, and understand that only I can provide.
Recall the discussion in the Knesset that unfolded around one of the most painful problems is the problem of poverty. Netanyahu, speaking said a few sentences about the prosperity of our economy, and then passed on to political attacks on us. I spoke forty minutes just on this topic, talked about why the current situation in the sphere of poverty, spoke about how it should and can be corrected.
Another example. On the night of December 24, we met in the Knesset to five o’clock in the morning, discussing and voting on the law, the whole essence of which consists in the transfer of funds to the settlers in favor of Bennett. So does this government.
You’re talking about the law on the activities of the settlement Department of the «Jewish Agency» (Xativa Le-hityashvut»)?
Honestly, I don’t understand what your beef with this law. You want to close this Department?
In any case. Few people remember today, but this Department was created by the party «Avoda».
In this case, what’s the problem? For the first time the Council ordered.
The fact of the matter is that there. Everything concerning lands and funds transferred to settlements in Judea and Samaria remains uncontrolled, non-report and non-transparent. We told the government that under certain conditions, if the wording of the act will be coordinated with us, we are ready even to consider the possibility to support him. However, in the form in which it was nominated, to vote for him.
You attack the coalition on all fronts, but it seems that it is very stable and is not going to fall.
This coalition has one major advantage over the previous one: it is very homogeneous. The last coalition were serious internal contradictions from the first day of its existence. The current coalition is based on right-wing parties. With a little more religious, a little less religious, but in General we are talking about a coalition with the obvious «common denominator». May she be allowed to survive, despite the fact that it relies only 61 mandate. It also helps the survival and the bill, which was held in the Knesset last convocation Avigdor Lieberman. I mean the power reform, and by the way, I’m not sure that today, looking back, Lieberman glad that undertook this reform. Under the new law, to ensure that the government falls, the opposition must represent the composition of an alternative coalition.
This coalition you have.
Given the heterogeneity of the opposition, it is not easy. But nothing is eternal under the moon, Israel is not a monarchy, and Netanyahu are in power forever. Obviously, people are aware of the need for change, yearn for them, as we have seen before past elections and their results. Despite the fact that I was not able to form a government, the people’s desire to see change in the leadership of the country was obvious.
A few days ago you said that we create the campaign headquarters. This means that, in your opinion, the elections are approaching?
The fact that the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu in this regard are unpredictable. He suddenly said that he intends to hold early primaries in the «litude». Why? After all under the Charter of his party primaries to be held only for six months before new elections. It’s not just a desire to take the issue off the agenda. This means only one thing: Netanyahu is seriously preparing for the possibility of early elections, and in the near future. Many believe that the Netanyahu’s announcement of early elections just one year after the previous took place – not a realistic scenario. I’m with this assessment disagree. The Knesset, the 19th convocation samorozpustyvsya a year and nine months after starting work. In certain situations I can easily see how Netanyahu dissolves Parliament and declares elections a year after the beginning of the work of the Knesset on the 20th convocation.
What, in your opinion, would this scenario? That may push Netanyahu to the Declaration of early elections?
For example, various kinds of police investigations. For example, certain economic disasters. The Israeli economy is in a state of serious stagnation, we are on the verge of negative economic growth indicator. On the other hand, Netanyahu sees that neither Lieberman nor Lapid nor I intend to join the government, each for his own reason, so there is no chance of extension of the governmental coalition. There are many factors that may push Netanyahu to ensure that as they say, to pull the lever or push the button.
In other words, if this government falls apart, it will be by decision of Netanyahu, and not leaving a link from the coalition.
Probably so. In any case, a situation in which Netanyahu is on his own initiative, based on their interests, announces early elections, it seems to me very real.
Why in this case, you decided to postpone the primaries in the party of «labor»?
We decided to not postpone the primaries. Now, when did these strange actions of Netanyahu, we have decided to freeze everything associated with the appointment dates of the primaries. As you know, initially they were to be held in summer 2016. We wanted to involve in party of new people, extend the series, and this was weighed the possibility to postpone the election in the second half of 2017. But now, when all of a sudden there was the likelihood of early elections, we have stopped all discussions related to this topic. But this is only a pause, and it may well be that the decision will be made in the near future.
And what options are weighed?
There are many alternatives. They are weighted, they all have their pros and cons, but of course very much depends on whether stabilizing the political situation or will be clear that we are moving towards new elections.
In early January, Amir Peretz returns to the party «Avoda».
Yes, he announced his intention to return to the party, a faction.
You see him as the main opponent in the upcoming primaries?
Amir is not the enemy. He’s an old friend, and I can only welcome his return to the party.
Friendship is friendship, and politics. Amir Peretz can be a serious contender for your post.
I invite everyone to participate in the primaries. Party «Avoda» – democratic structure, may be one of the last democratic parties in Israel. Anyone who wants to can nominate themselves. I know party members «Avoda, know you have their support and their trust.
In other words, you intend to break the age-long tradition: usually the leader of the «labor» falls out after the first term.
I know that this is an issue that worries all. (Laughs). I proved to party members and their ability to make decisions, and the ability of these solutions to implement. All this was seen as recovered the party «Avoda», and by the way we decided to go to the Union with Livni and signed it. Everyone saw that in the 2015 elections, the party «Avoda», or rather «the Zionist camp», won the most votes since 1992. All this fell from the sky, but was the result of our hard work. The party members see it, appreciate it, and I’m sure that will give me the opportunity to lead the party, the bloc and to future elections.
When do you think there will be elections?
We will enter the election period in 2016. Maybe the elections will be in late 2016, maybe early 2017.
In this election we will see again block the «Zionist camp»?
«The Zionist camp» is not just a Union of two parties. It is a concept. Many people identify themselves with our views, that we offer, but refrained from voting for «Avoda». This brand looks dated, not attractive. So I see not only the possibility of an Alliance with the party «-TNW», the Union, which now works perfectly and will continue to work, but also the possibility of bringing in new forces. For example, if Yair Lapid instead of continuously attacking us, would agree to cooperate with us, such a block would be more sturdy Foundation.
Don’t know if you know but Yair Lapid in all the interviews declares that he sees himself a candidate for the post of Prime Minister.
I know, of course, but you know as well as I do that this is not serious. Lapid today in 11 seats, and he has already proved unable to produce a result. It can bring only I.
In other words, you’re talking about the creation of a wide bloc that would unite the center-left party.
Yes, I would be very happy if I had the opportunity to build a single platform that could consolidate all the democratic, moderate forces that can lead to a change of government. Party «Avoda» headed by me is the basis of this platform, but there would’ve been for all democratically oriented forces.
Before the last election, we spoke about the fact that to win elections the party «Avoda» need a leader with military background. You then said that times have changed.
The results of the last elections and the current situation does not put you on the idea that you were wrong?
In any case. From 2013 to 2015 we have increased almost twice the number of votes that were cast for us. This is the easiest answer. I travel a lot around the country, meeting with people who had never voted for the party «Avoda». These are people who need to explain that Israel’s security is above all for me, in this regard, no compromises. These people for a long time voted for Likud for other parties. But now I see a real opportunity to get their support.
In other words, you are aiming to win the votes of the so-called «easy right».
Yes, because they share a large part of our proposals, and do not vote for us often because of ingrained negative attitudes to what is called the party of «labor». But I communicate with these people, but including immigrants from the former Soviet Union, with whom I just did not have time to meet before the last elections. Many of them don’t know that I come from a family of people who made an enormous contribution to the security of this country. Many do not know that my father was President, my brother was a General. Many need convincing that I’m not going to sell this country to the Arabs that the security of the Jewish state above all else for me. I see people who are ready to listen, ready to accept the new. This in itself is very interesting, and it gives the confidence that I will receive support.
But what you’re offering them? Let’s look at an issue that remains Central to the agenda – foreign policy. At least three members of your party are offering settlement of the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. I should think the voters? Looks like this party?
Voters have to think and know that we are talking about the democratic party, which has place a variety of views on all agenda items. I told everyone that we intend to hold a conference of the party on formation of the foreign policy platform. Until then, any party member can make suggestions. On my Desk I have a huge stack of a variety of ideas. Among them are three members of the Israeli Knesset, you are talking about (Hilik Bar and Omer Bar-Lev, Amir Peretz – approx.ed.).
According to you, it comes to offer to the discussion, and Amir Peretz is already my program which is the final and main platform.
I repeat what already said, we are a democratic party, which does not forbid anyone to put forward their proposals. We don’t press anyone else’s initiative and not ask a single, «correct» line. People quickly forget that in the past there was a great variety of different programmes – from the Galili plan and plan of allona, through the «agreement of the Beilin-Abu Mazen», the project of AMI Ayalon, God knows how many proposals. Current programs differ in nuances, but is similar in General concept. They are based on the Clinton parameters with those or other changes.
If I understand correctly, in regard to foreign policy, you still believe in bilateral negotiations with the PNA and not to the regional agreement, about which so much is said Lapid and Lieberman.
I believe in the negotiating process with the Palestinians that will occur at the regional table. Around this table will be representatives of moderate Arab countries, and this coalition will create a kind of umbrella under which will be the subject of negotiations.
Bilateral negotiations are not yesterday?
Not at all. It is a necessity. This is what we have to do, whether we like it or not. But I believe in a combination of bilateral process and shell. Be that as it may, fundamental issues of the conflict with the Palestinians we have to deal face to face with them. Refugees, security, territory – all these issues can only be solved face to face, only through direct negotiations.
Your party many criticized the government for what it calls «the surrender of the government to the haredim». But let’s be honest, in place of Netanyahu, needing the support of deputies from the ultra-Orthodox parties, you would do the same thing.
I would certainly negotiated with the haredim, I say this quite openly. But I would rather have red lines I will not cross. In particular they relate to and address the problems of Judaism for new immigrants wanting to pass it. Within the framework of Halacha, but in a friendly atmosphere and without pressure.
You voted against changing the law on conscription to the IDF. You really seem so important to maintain criminal sanctions against haredim who refuse service?
In the ultra-Orthodox society is undergoing tremendous changes, immense importance. They are not always visible to an outsider, but I am very familiar with ultra-Orthodox society and can evaluate them. By the way, we talked about the fact that I meet people from different population groups. I have been amazingly interesting meeting with new immigrants who came to religion. Yes, there are. And speaking about changes in ultra-Orthodox environments, they also affect recruitment to the IDF, haredim to work. The law, which was passed in the Knesset last convocation, begets a reaction, slows down those processes. On the other hand, the changes that were made now were the result of cynical political deal, capitulating to the pressure and blackmail and not any thoughtful of agreed decisions. That is why we did not support the new bill.
You always automatically against bills put forward by the government? The opposition led by your faction failed bill to abolish the rule of automatic transfer of children up to six years to mothers in case of divorce. This caused a lot of criticism.
We follow the approach based on the public interest. Where the government deserves the support it gets. For example, when speaking about the Declaration of the «Islamic movement» outside the law, we supported that proposal, but demanded that similar action had been taken against the fascist organization «Lehava». But as for the law on the abolition of the automatic transmission to mothers of children up to six years, the situation is different. When I was Minister of social Affairs, advocated the lowering of the maximum age of 3-4 years. On the other hand, the new bill aroused the antagonism from the women’s lobby in the Knesset. And again, the government preferred their own initiative to negotiate with us. It works all: shamelessly fills up our bills for no reason. Yes, not only our, remember the bill Sofa Landwehr. They got it very cynically, without any real reason, just to annoy the opposition. If they behave like this, then there is no reason that we maintain their bills.
One last question, Mr. Duke. We are on the threshold of the New year. How do you feel about this holiday? You have an occasion to celebrate?
Until recently this holiday was very little known wide Israeli public. Personally I am very happy to discover a new value of this holiday that is so important to the Russian-speaking Israelis. It is clear to me that this holiday has no religious meaning, as sometimes try to claim some. I can only hope that this holiday will soon be popular among all the citizens of Israel. I congratulate all, and especially the community of Russian-speaking Israelis a happy New year and I wish you safety, prosperity and success.
Interviewed Gabby Wolfson
Discussion the interview on page NEWSru.co.il in Facebook