Zalman Shoval worked the room at the Likud central committee meeting Monday
night like a pro. Activist after activist approached the diplomat and politician
asking: Zalman, remember me? Shoval, who is one of the Likud’s founding members,
shook hand after hand, never tiring.
“In 1972, the idea to form the Likud
Party was thought up in a small café in north Tel Aviv,” Shoval recounted. “I
was there with [then-MK] Yigal Hurvitz and [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon.
You could say I’m the only surviving founder of the Likud Party.”
conference room in Tel Aviv buzzed around Shoval following the approval of the
Likud-Yisrael Beytenu merger, the two-time ambassador to the US pointed out that
he is no stranger to such political maneuvers. After all, after that fateful
meeting in 1972, Likud was formed by combining Gahal, Shoval and Hurvitz’s
National List, the Free Center and the Movement for Greater Israel.
hopeful that the new list could get 50 seats, and we can form a government
without giving in to particular demands,” Shoval said.
precedent for such mergers working, like when the Likud was formed. They tell
the electorate that there’s a possibility for change. There’s a psychological
element that could bring many people to the ballot box.”
differences between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, Shoval expressed confidence the
two sides will stay together and set a joint course.
Shoval, 82, a member
of the seventh, eighth, ninth and 12th Knessets, began his political career in
1965, when he joined former prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi
He entered the Knesset in 1970, replacing Ben-Gurion when he
resigned. Shoval also served as ambassador to the US in 1990-1993 and
In recent years, Shoval has served as special envoy for Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, representing him to American think tanks and
With Netanyahu’s support Shoval is running in the Likud primary
once again, after reaching the 49th slot in the previous election. The former
diplomat says he plans to campaign more intensely this time, and focus on online
resources and social media.
“I’m personally computer ignorant,” he
quipped, “but I have people doing that job for me.”
If Shoval makes it to
the Knesset, he hopes to “further Israel’s standing on the diplomatic front” in
years when the country will face “unprecedented issues.”
“I’m not just
talking about Iran, because I am confident, more confident than most, that it
will soon be dealt with by or with the US,” he explained. “Israel and the US
will have to deal with Islamization of the Arab world. They look at the world
differently, and do not share values the US and Israel cherish.”
US-Israel relations, Shoval is optimistic, saying the allegiance between the two
countries is strong and built on joint interests.
“Whoever is elected in
the US presidential election will be Israel’s ally,” Shoval said. “Our interests
are so close, that personal chemistry is less important.”
out that when he was ambassador, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and US
president George H.W. Bush’s relationship was much worse than Netanyahu’s with
US President Barack Obama, “but in the Gulf War and Madrid Conference,
everything was fine.”
“I don’t think Netanyahu supports one side more
than the other. I think one side is trying to paint that picture,” he added.
“Netanyahu and I met with three Democratic senators last week, and they said
they don’t feel there’s a divide.”
The diplomat recounted reading an
editorial that regardless of who wins the US election, the next administration
will have to “reset” relations with Israel, and said Netanyahu should do the
same after November.