18. Miri Regev

The voice of the people

Culture Minister Miri Regev (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Culture Minister Miri Regev
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
When Miri Regev was IDF spokeswoman from 2005 to 2007, she was the army’s voice during the challenging Second Lebanon War and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
When she entered politics and joined the Likud a decade ago, Regev shifted gears and became the voice of the people, more specifically the underclass, periphery and inner cities, which have traditionally voted for the Likud.
She barely made it into her first Knesset, winning the 27th slot on a Likud list that won 27 seats. But she has risen since then to fifth in the election in 2015 and is a serious challenger for the second slot, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, next primary.
She has some three times as many likes on Facebook as any Likud figure other than Netanyahu, with some 325,000, and unlike some of her colleagues, has never paid the social media site to boost her posts.
Recognizing that popularity, Regev has been in demand by Likud candidates in the October 30 municipal elections. In the 24 hours before she interviewed with The Jerusalem Post, she had spoken at campaign events in Migdal Ha’emek, Petah Tikva, Holon and the Samaria Regional Council.
She endeared herself to Likud voters while irritating others by shifting funding in her Culture and Sports Ministry from Tel Aviv to the periphery and Judea and Samaria, raising the culture budget in settlements tenfold. Her nonstop battles with cultural icons and institutions and her feud with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein over Israel’s 70th birthday celebrations made her enemies but also raised her profile.
Due to her closeness with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, he has appointed her to the symbolic role of acting prime minister when he is abroad, including during an August trip to Lithuania, when the Post interview took place.
When a Likud primary to replace Netanyahu takes place, the race could pit Regev against 10 male candidates, which could give her an advantage. In the interview, she explains the reason for her rise in popularity and her ambitions.
How have you attracted the support of so many Likudniks?
They understand the justice of my cause and my agenda of the Likud really leading the nation on security and socioeconomic issues. I go with my truth, which is important to my public. I speak clearly and don’t hide behind anything. I am authentic, I know where I came from and I serve the nation without fear. I am not afraid to govern, to be booed or to get bad press. I have courage to defend my path, while other politicians are afraid of the press and other elites. I was elected to govern and implement the agenda I was chosen to advance, and I will implement it.
I also work hardest, from morning until night, helping people on the phone the whole way in their fights against bureaucracy. I didn’t come to summer camp; I came to work.
What is your diplomatic plan?
Between the Jordan River and Mediterranean, there is room for only one state – it’s the state of the Jewish people, with a blue-and-white flag and an anthem that talks about the Jewish soul. That means national rights for only the Jewish people. I wish other countries treated Jews the way we treat our minorities, with affirmative action advancing them. Everyone will get individual rights, but there are 21 countries around us where Arabs can have national rights. We have only one Jewish country, and we have to maintain it.
You quit the Ministerial Committee on Holy Sites because you did not want to authorize egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Why is this an issue for the Likud?
I do what is right for Israel and its people. The Kotel is the most holy place for Jews, and in Israel we must act for the heritage of Israel. I dress properly at holy sites around the world. I respect the Reform [Jews] around the world. I know they are the majority in the US, and I know Reform Jews in the US and around the world support Israel and its security. I know it’s hard to be a Jew in the Diaspora. But here I want our holy sites to be run according to our heritage.
So you oppose egalitarian prayer anywhere at the Kotel, including the current small prayer site at its southern end?
Yes, but the prime minister makes the decisions, and he has more considerations.
What are your short- and long-term personal ambitions?
I see myself advancing to roles that advance Israeli society. Not too many women have been generals like I have. After the next election, Netanyahu will continue to lead, and I hope I will be in an influential role.
And after the Netanyahu era?
After the Netanyahu era, interview me. I always aim to reach the peaks. But currently, Netanyahu is prime minister, and he is a terrific prime minister.
What is your message to the world?
Israel is a country of peace, a small country with great achievements, a country that is working to make the world better. Whenever there is an international disaster, Israel will be the first there to help.
But the world must understand that Jews have only one country, the land of the Bible, and it’s ours. It’s the land of Abraham and Sarah, and there are no 3,000-year-old coins of Palestinians.
I want to thank the US presidents and people for our strategic bond. I call on the countries of the world not to support BDS and to prevent the boycott of Israel.
I want to thank President Donald Trump in particular for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US Embassy, changing US policy on Iran, and dividing the world between good and evil.
People have said I’m Israel’s Trump, because we both speak the truth directly and to the point. The public wants to know the truth.