Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has warned world leaders against creating a Palestinian state that would go to war with Israel, he said Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Edelstein said when he meets with top international figures, he makes a point of not hiding his right-wing views, rather than telling them what they want to hear.
“When you meet world leaders it’s so easy to turn into Meretz in order to find favor with them,” he said. “But I tell them I don’t think it is a great idea to create a Palestinian state that we may have to attack a year from now because it will be an unlimited source of terrorism the way the Gaza Strip is.”
Such views could help Edelstein in Wednesday’s Likud primary, when he will be competing for one of the top slots on the party’s list for the March 17 general election.
Edelstein has cautioned his supporters against complacency that could harm his chances of rising in the ranks of Likud. He compared his current situation to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2013 general election, when many Likud supporters said they voted for Bayit Yehudi in order to strengthen Netanyahu because they were confident he would win.
“Many people talk about supporting me but say that they feel I’ll be so high on the list that they don’t need to vote for me and they can vote for other candidates who need their votes more,” he said. “I’m very worried. I tell them if they don’t vote for me, I’ll be at the bottom of the list.”
Asked whether he would demand the foreign affairs portfolio if he wins the top slot after Netanyahu, he said he learned from his favorite sport, table tennis, to take each challenge as it comes. He also said the job would not necessarily be a step up from his current job as Knesset Speaker.
“We have to finish the primary first,” he said. “Then the most important thing is the election on March 17. It’s not about Likud. It’s about this country. If Netanyahu forms the government, then we will discuss positions.”
Edelstein implored the public not to vote for new, “trendy” parties, pointing out that since the 1970s, such parties, which are usually centrist, rise and fall quickly.
“I understand there are people with different views, not just Likud and Labor, but why are there always 15-20 seats moving around freely?” he asked.
“Intelligent people don’t always have to ride a wave. They should consider voting for parties that may sound less exciting but have a record.”
Though Edelstein is Knesset Speaker, he admitted that “not everything can be legislated,” and didn’t think electoral reform is the solution to government instability.
“I don’t know how to run a country with 18 seats,” like Likud has, he said.
“If we asked a businessman how to run a business with 15 percent control, I’m not sure he’d have a good answer.”
Therefore, Edelstein called this election “an opportunity to change. I sincerely hope Likud will be big enough to create a coalition... It’s up to the voters.”
Sources close to Netanyahu have said he hopes to attract more immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This could become an even higher priority if Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman becomes implicated in his party’s corruption scandal.
But Edelstein said Liberman is innocent until proven guilty and he hopes the foreign minister will not be implicated in the scandal.
“Corruption damages all public officials because people say ‘why should I bother voting when you are all stealing money,’” he said. “I don’t want to gain from a corruption scandal, but there is competition for the so-called Russian vote and the main competitors are Yisrael Beytenu and Likud. I sincerely hope we’ll be talking more about ourselves and our record and not others.”
Edelstein said that unlike past Likud primaries, there was a positive atmosphere in the current one. He said that at the Likud events he attends every night, the candidates praise rather than attack each other.
That did not prevent him from speaking out against a lawmaker from another party – MK Haneen Zoabi of Balad, that is.
Edelstein submitted one of the many complaints earlier this year that accused Zoabi of inciting armed conflict against Israel because of her open support of Hamas – which led to her six-month suspension from the Knesset.
“I have been in the Knesset for almost 19 years,” Edelstein said. “I remember Arab MKs joining me at the March of the Living and proposing social-oriented legislation with me. That is definitely not Zoabi. I believe in coexistence and fighting against those who harm it and I think that Zoabi’s words and actions hurt coexistence. People hear her and think all Arabs must hate us and want to kill us. That is unhealthy, and we have to put an end to it.”
The High Court upheld the Knesset Ethics Committee’s punishment for Zoabi, but in a separate move recently canceled the government’s anti-migration policy.
Edelstein took a milder tone than many of his colleagues in Likud in criticizing the Supreme Court, saying MKs are partly to blame for bringing Knesset issues to the judiciary and pointing out that Supreme Court President Asher Grunis made similar comments.
“I’m not one of those who attack the Supreme Court... I think what is lacking is not a discussion of whether the court was right or wrong, but that it needs some self-restraint,” he explained.
“Some judges are not very eager to show self-restraint and that is not healthy, because then the Knesset attacks the Supreme Court.”
When it comes to the Supreme Court and the Knesset, Edelstein said, “arm wrestling could turn into a nasty fight that is not healthy for democracy.”