Labor didn’t see Revital Swid coming.
The criminal defense attorney, who was known for representing high-profile criminals like the Abutbul family, only began to consider entering politics last summer. Now she is a sure thing for the next Knesset, passing incumbents to reach No. 14 on the Zionist Union list.
Swid, a 47-year-old Ra’anana resident, is a married mother of four children, ranging in age from seven to 22. She has been a lawyer for 23 years, with her own firm for 20, reaching prominent positions in the Bar Association, but she decided to leave her comfort zone.
“In my profession, I saw it as my goal to help individuals. After a while, I said, ‘it’s enough.’ I’m helping people one-by-one, but I wanted to take the next step and help the general public,” she explained.
Another matter that contributed to her move from arguing the law to drafting it was Operation Protective Edge, in which her 22-year-old fought in a tank unit.
“That was the first time I felt an existential fear and I understood that if there isn’t a serious change, I’ll experience the same thing next summer, with my next son, who’s 18, and with my youngest, who is seven. I realized things aren’t going anywhere, and I had to at least try to do something,” she explained.
Last summer, Swid had vague ideas of what she should do to bring a change and didn’t expect an election to come so soon, but when the Knesset was dissolved, she threw her hat in the Labor ring, despite never having been a member of any political party before.
Swid said she always saw Labor as her political home and voted for them in most elections because they reflect her values.
“Their whole socioeconomic approach is one that I believe in, the idea that the public comes first,” she said. “There are other parties focused on social issues, but it was important to me to be in one that had primaries, in which the public chooses its representatives.”
The Zionist Union candidate also said that, while she did not always think so, she came to an understanding that it is important to vote for bigger parties.
“I thought that if you vote within a bloc, you are supporting the biggest party in the bloc. Now I understand that you have to vote for one of the two big parties. If we want governability and not elections every two years, we need two big leading parties... to ensure that the biggest party in the coalition can’t be blackmailed by smaller parties that often disappear after another election or two,” she explained.
Swid identifies as religious – she observes Shabbat and sends her children to religious schools, went to the flagship religious-Zionist girls’ high school in Kfar Pines and was a counselor in the Bnei Akiva youth group – and fought the stereotype that religious means right-wing.
“Zionism doesn’t just belong to the Right, certainly not to the extreme Right,” she said. “People who love the land and the people of Israel don’t have to fit into a certain mold.”
According to Swid, Labor’s social values are similar to those on which religious Zionists are raised.
As far as diplomatic matters are concerned, she said many religious people are more concerned that “the government, in the last six years, deteriorated our foreign policies, lost us friendships with countries in Europe and harmed our relations with America. That hurts us in the areas that we want to sanctify.”
“I see a lot of religious people who do not automatically vote Bayit Yehudi and Likud. They are people who don’t want every third child to go to bed hungry, want more funding for welfare and education and want to lower the cost of living, have affordable housing and fair rent. They want those to be the first priority. They want socioeconomic stability,” she stated.
As an MK, Swid hopes to be chairwoman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and wants to focus on strengthening the rule of law and protecting and strengthening the High Court.
Referring to proposals from Likud and Bayit Yehudi MKs, she said: “Right before the Knesset was dissolved, we saw anti-democratic bills that almost passed. When the High Court said some laws violate basic human rights, they almost passed a bill to circumvent the court.”
“I think the High Court is the gatekeeper of our country and one of the strongholds of our democracy,” she added. “We have to protect it.”
Swid is also interested in legislation to curb violence in Israeli society, particularly on social media, saying Israel has become “a society that speaks violently... and that behavior affects our children and youth. We need to stop it.”
The candidate pointed to a recent incident in which drunk passengers on an Israir flight to Bulgaria cursed at a flight attendant who wouldn’t sell them chocolate as reflecting “the ugly Israeli.”
Swid said that as a lawyer, she has seen cases of children who committed crimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had respectable, middle-class parents, and put the onus on social media.
“There is incitement to violence there that causes psychological harm to our youth and children.
We know of teenagers who committed suicide because of what they experienced. It’s a big job, but we need to limit the virtual space so that it doesn’t lead to crime,” she posited.
One way to fight the negative influences of social media, she said, is for the government to invest more in after-school programs and youth groups, so that children are in a framework that teaches them values.
She is also interested in helping women both “break the glass ceiling and get up from the cement floor.”
Swid experienced work in a male-dominated field, criminal law. When she began, she said, she could count the number of female attorneys in her field on one hand.
“When I started, things were unclear and complicated. I didn’t have problems with my clients. The problem was other lawyers who didn’t accept me. I’m proud to say I paved my own path to a very respectable place and many female defense attorneys thank me,” she said.
At the same time, she wants to help women who have had a completely different experience: “Single mothers, people who can’t finish the month, women who have to support their families while making minimum wage.”
Swid also said she is very proud of the fact that the Zionist Union has six female candidates in its top 20. Three women reached the top 10 based on the amount of primary votes they received, and Swid was bumped to No. 14, which was reserved for women.
“Compare us to other parties, with only two women in the top 20,” she said, referring to the Likud, which has three women in its top 20. “That’s more than embarrassing. That shouldn’t happen.”