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Meet the new MK: Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin

"We need understanding of checks and balances," says Zionist Union MK.

March 26, 2015 00:41


Name: Ayelet Nahmias- Verbin

Party: Zionist Union (Labor)

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Age: 44

Hometown: Tel Aviv

Family status: Married, three children

Profession before becoming an MK: Lawyer in training, chairwoman of an irrigation company called Tavlit.

Why did you decide to enter politics? I have been in politics since I was 20, when I was a student.

I worked for Yitzhak Rabin for four years, before he was prime minister and during his time as prime minister. After many years in the business sector, I thought I don’t have the privilege of staying on the outside and I need to take part in what is going on here. I have a broad view of things that need to happen and what has become of Israeli society, because I started off [in politics] very early, but I only decided to run when I thought I had real perspective on what happened in 1995 [Rabin’s assassination] and onward.

What are the first bills you plan to propose? The thing that is least emphasized [in Knesset] is oversight of what the government does. I want to change that, probably because I have a view of a board member [in companies]... The government doesn’t care about the Knesset; it sees the Knesset as a liability that needs to be dealt with. We need to create an understanding of checks and balances. We lost that. When I worked with Rabin, the Knesset was an important place. We worked for the Knesset, in a way.

I also want to have expenses for childcare recognized by the tax authorities, and for there to be subsidized after-school care.

Both deal with young children and create fair work conditions for women.

This Knesset has a record high number of women (30) and Arabs (17). How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings? The Arabs [in the Joint List] only have two more seats, and as far as I’m concerned, Israeli Arabs are regular citizens of Israel. They have more power now [in the Knesset], but so does Zionist Union. I would have preferred Herzog as prime minister, but if we’re doomed to the opposition, we can be a very feisty and strong one and I think that is important, democratically.

I can’t say I know what kind of effect [more women] will have, but I can say I think there are too few. We need to make sure more women are not afraid to enter politics and take part in decision- making in Israel...Women need to understand that it’s crucial that the feminine side play a part in decision-making. We need that perspective in many areas.

What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state? I think that there is no doubt, in the long run, that there is no other solution [than two states]. I think Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu knows that, even though he’s playing with it. I feel like an umpire in tennis turning my head back and forth – What did [Netanyahu] say today? What did he say yesterday?... We cannot rule four million Palestinians over time. If Netanyahu continues like this, we’ll have a binational state.

What impact do you think the tension in US-Israel relations will have on us in the next few years?
[US President Barack] Obama has almost another two years in office. In a bizarre way, Netanyahu managed to bring us to a super, super, super dangerous place. The [former] head of the Mossad [Meir Dagan] said Netanyahu is dangerous for Israel! I hope and believe Netanyahu wants what’s good for Israel. I don’t want to think otherwise, but the burden of proof is on him, when he’s building a rightwing government, that he’s not putting us in danger and that he can make significant decisions on security, diplomacy and socioeconomic matters.

What should the government’s response be to growing global anti-Semitism? I think one of the most dangerous things Netanyahu did is call for the Jews of the world to make aliya, because he is destroying our alliances with countries around the world. We depend on Europe to buy our exports and many other things.

We have to be smart. We have to see how we can help those countries take care of education issues. There are all kinds of problems, like trying to pass laws against ritual circumcision.

We have to cooperate with the countries and not spit in their faces.

Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut and others? I think we need to adjust to a changing reality. We can’t separate religion and state today, but I think we could have civil unions. I respect haredim and religious people... I grew up with religious relatives who I love. I love Judaism, I’m raising my children consciously Jewish.

We’re not religious, but Judaism is very present in our lives.

We could have public transport on Shabbat in some areas, but not where there are religious people, because I don’t want to hurt them. I’m for equality in the burden [of national and military service] but I think it needs to be focused more on employment than army – and I say that as someone married to a lieutenant-colonel [in the reserves].

What can be done to lower the cost of housing?
I hope the PM will make decisions, for a change. That is where he was most incompetent.

There was [then-finance minister Yair Lapid’s] 0 percent VAT plan [on a family’s first home] and [Construction Minister Uri Ariel’s] target price plan, and instead of deciding which is best, the prime minister allowed both. Apparently, 0 VAT is not a good plan, but then decide you want target pricing.

The indecision made prices rise. I hope Netanyahu will take responsibility and connect the Israel Lands Authority and planning boards so it won’t take 12-13 years to go from planning to building.

At the same time, there should be urban renewal, through national master plans [for contractors to renovate buildings for earthquake protection and other reasons, and in some case adding another floor or two to an apartment building]. There are whole cities that could have them, adding thousands of homes. The options exist and we need to act. I don’t get the impression that the prime minister wants to do these things, and I don’t understand why.

What should the government do to lower the poverty rate?
Investing in public transportation lowers inequality...

Income inequality is one of the biggest failures of this government.

We also need to give banks and other issues a fresh look, address them with courage, and decide what to do... We need to encourage small food manufacturers and make sure their products reach supermarket shelves. We need to increase imports, but make sure farmers can still survive. We need agriculture and manufacturing, because not everyone can work in the stock market or hi-tech.

Is there something else people should know about you?
My grandfather’s family came to Safed in 1777. My grandmother was one of the founders of Nahalal. My other side is from Salonika, and all their relatives died in the Holocaust.

A lot of what I am doing now goes back to that. I look at my children and I hope that they will be able to live here with the same love, passion, and commitment that my husband and I want to convey to them.

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