Meet the New MK: Izhar Shay, Blue and White

"Antisemitism is neither just an Israeli issue nor a Jewish issue. All free nations around the world should strongly oppose [it]," the new Member of Knesset stated.

Izhar Shay, Blue and White party, 2015 (photo credit: CHEN ZIV / WIKICOMMONS)
Izhar Shay, Blue and White party, 2015
(photo credit: CHEN ZIV / WIKICOMMONS)
Name: Izhar Shay
Party: Blue and White
Age: 55
Hometown: Kadima-Zoran
Family status: Married + 4
Profession before becoming an MK: Hi-tech entrepreneur and venture capital investor

Why did you decide to enter politics?
After years of public activity as a social entrepreneur, as a volunteer with Tzahala – For The Israeli Youth; as a volunteer with Kamatech, integrating haredi entrepreneurs into Israeli hi-tech; after having been involved with various activities aimed at closing the gaps between the Israeli periphery and the “Tel Aviv Bubble”; after having served at the board of IATI [Israel Advanced Technology Industries] in order to help promote the interests of the Israeli high tech industry; I decided to take my passion for social and public affairs to the next level and try to influence national policies, which will have a positive effect on the various issues I had been involved with as a volunteer.
What are the first bills you plan to propose?

My first proposal, which has been submitted already, deals with establishing a benchmark for research and development spending at 0.8% of the total national annual budget. This will put Israel in line with the most advanced OECD nations; will promote an economy of innovation and opportunities for advancement for people around the country; and will keep Israel at the forefront of countries leading in tech. Other bills I plan to promote deal with equal opportunities, informal education and improving public service through digitization and advanced technologies.

What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?

Definitely meeting the “man on the street” was the most interesting and fulfilling. We met with thousands of people who told us of their dreams and challenges, asked us to work for them on various fronts and helped us better understand the importance of our mission and its meaning for so many people in Israel.

This election has been notable for especially negative campaigning. What do you hope to do to bring people together after these divisive months?

This is actually one of my most important undertakings for my public career. On my first day as an MK, I established a lobby in the Knesset for the promotion of national unity and respectful interactions between all parts of Israeli society. I have already embarked on this mission by creating small working groups, which will hopefully expand into bigger circles as we make progress with this extremely important national goal.

What is your position on US President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan and on a possible Palestinian state?

I believe we all have to wait patiently for President Trump’s announcement about his administration’s peace plan. Only after reading the details and analyzing them carefully would I opine on this important topic.

What should the government’s response be to growing global antisemitism?

First, antisemitism is neither just an Israeli issue nor a Jewish issue. All free nations and all free people around the world should strongly oppose and actively fight against any trend of antisemitism, in whatever shape or form it is manifested. As for Israel, we should continue to educate the world on the terrible ramifications of antisemitism – and we should demand strict policies and actions against any form of antisemitism anywhere in the world.

Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut, the Western Wall and others?

In general, I believe in “live and let live” policies. I strongly believe that many of the current gaps and disagreements can be bridged through open discussions between the parties involved. That being said, I believe that public transportation should be available on Saturday in neighborhoods where it does not directly offend religious residents. I believe the Western Wall is big enough to host all Jewish streams, and the grounds for civil marriages should be explored thoroughly.

How do you think the government should address the matter of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF?

Haredi enlistment to the IDF is already happening. All further actions and policies should not be unilateral, but rather discussed and agreed upon based on actual IDF requirements and an understanding of what matters to the haredi community as it relates to this most contentious topic.

What can be done to lower the cost of living?

The Israeli government has to engage with national projects in the areas of transportation, infrastructure and ecosystems that will promote further opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship around the country. This will lead to increased productivity and further growth of the Israeli economy. Furthermore, we need to decrease the bureaucracy related to government regulations to promote competition in markets such as food and retail, which will lower costs.
Special attention and focus should be given to providing tens of thousands of new housing solutions every year, as housing is one of the most pressing topics for the young, working middle class in Israel.

What will you do to help 400,000 Anglo Israelis?

I hope to engage in programs and activities that will help further integrate this very important population into the Israeli society. As a nation that was built on the diversity of cultures of immigrants from all over the world, we should continue to enjoy the merits of the Anglo culture, which also represent ties with some of our most significant allies in the international arena. We Israelis should listen carefully to feedback – and sometimes frustration – expressed by our Anglo community, and try to learn and improve where possible based on their input.

Is there something else people should know about you?

My family and I love sports. We frequently attend soccer and basketball games, which is fun quality time for all family members. I personally believe that sports have the potential to improve education and build character for the youngsters, which is why I do hope for significant improvement in Israeli policy-makers’ attitude towards sports, for engaging in long-term planning and strategic investments in sports infrastructure here in Israel. My dream is to see professional American-style football happening in Israel, sometime in the future.