Meet the New MK: Ofir Sofer, URP

Profession before becoming an MK: Secretary-General of National Union, one of the parties making up URP. Before that, was a project manager for Negev and Galilee Ministry and an officer in the IDF.

Ofir Sofer (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ofir Sofer
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Name: Ofir Sofer
Party: Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP)
Age: 44
Hometown: Moshav Tefahot, in the northern Galilee
Family status: Married +7
Profession before becoming an MK: Secretary-General of National Union, one of the parties making up URP. Before that, he was a project manager for Negev and Galilee Ministry and an officer in the IDF.
Why did you decide to enter politics?
“It didn’t happen in one day. After the army, I decided to work on the development of the Galilee. I met [former National Union leader and minister] Uri Ariel who was an MK at the time, and I slowly got more and more into politics.”

What are the first bills you plan to propose?
“The core issues of the URP are everything to do with religion and state, Shabbat, the Land of Israel, etc. Aside from that, I think I am one of the only MKs living in the Galilee, certainly the northern Galilee, and I am interested in developing it, including in the areas of economic development, employment and education.”
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
“The most interesting and dramatic part was the results – and not in a positive way, because a lot of right-wing votes were thrown away [with the New Right and Zehut dropping below the electoral threshold]. [URP] acted responsibly, but there could have been a much larger right-wing coalition.”
This election has been notable for especially negative campaigning. What do you hope to do to bring people together after these divisive months?
“Soon it will be Yom Hashoa, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, so it will happen naturally.
“I didn’t like the style of the campaign, which focused more on people than on real issues. Personalities can’t be everything. I have a feeling that we are going to go back to significant matters.
“Most parties in this campaign did have a platform. In the last election there were parties that didn’t really have a platform but now it was part of the agenda.”
What is your position on US President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan and on a possible Palestinian state?
“There is no place for the delusion called a Palestinian state. This land is our land. The Land of Israel is the Promised Land. We returned after 2,000 years of exile, and we are developing the land amazingly.
“[On Sunday], I went with my wife and children to museum of the First Aliya. Think about where we were 100 years ago and where we are now!
“We have to develop the land with love for everyone. We have to be strong, because we live in the Middle East. Think about what would happen if we would have given the Golan up when there was talk about that. Thank God it is now clear to all [that it would have been a mistake]. Just as we didn’t give away Tel Hai and the Golan, we should not give away any parts of the land.”
What should the government’s response be to growing global antisemitism?
“I think it must involve a lot of diplomatic moves, international relations. It could be that we need action on campuses, but first we should start with the leadership of every country…It’s sad to see how much antisemitism still exists in 2019 and it’s increasing.”
Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut, the Kotel and others?
“Yes. I think Israel is a Jewish State, and it is important to keep its Jewish identity. Eating away at the status quo eats away at our Jewish identity.
“That doesn’t mean that we need to be strict on all kinds of things. We can talk about them and improve, but I mostly am for the status quo.
“I understand it hurts the individual in many cases, but every public decision hurts one individual or another. As a country, when we want to protect some values, it comes at the expense of others.”
How do you think the government should address the matter of haredi enlistment in the IDF?
“I think we have to encourage enlistment but not force it. We see a natural process of haredim entering the workforce and the IDF. The state should keep encouraging that, while recognizing the value of learning Torah. I think the process that existed up until now was a positive dynamic and the enlistment is rising.
What can be done to lower the cost of living?
“I don’t have answers for everything. We need to continue developing a good economy and a good free market. That usually leads to lower prices.”

What will you do to help 400,000 Anglo Israelis?
“I think we need to improve the matter of immigrant absorption in Israel, which applies to those from the former Soviet Union, France and the US.
“Sometimes it seems like people who have some money have it easy – not that all of them have money, and even if they do, there are problems. A lot of [immigrant] youths drop out of school. The feeling I got from learning a bit about it is that there needs to be a lot more work on absorption in the different populations. It’s not strong enough at the moment.”