(photo credit: Courtesy)
Name: Merav Ben-Ari
Profession before becoming an MK:
Hometown: Tel Aviv
Family status: Single – “I think I’m the only single woman out of all the new MKs.”
She is, in fact, the only new female MK who has never been married.
I am a lawyer, but I ran centers for at-risk youth in Netanya and Herzliya, and was a member of the Tel Aviv City Council.
Why did you decide to enter politics?
I’ve been dealing with social issues since I was 14 years old. I was an education officer in the Golani Brigade [MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) was one of her soldiers] and head of the student union at the IDC. I worked with at-risk youth for 10 years. I felt that the time had come for me to move to dealing with social issues on a national level, from a more influential place.
What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
The topics I want to deal with are youth at risk, informal education and regulating the status of city council members.
I have celiac [disease], and I also hope to [pass laws regarding] that lower the cost of gluten-free food, which is very expensive. When people with celiac go to the supermarket, we should be able to pay reasonable prices.
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
Meeting supportive people and seeing their reactions live and on Facebook. They were so supportive. People came up to me and said that I am so right for the job and it is so important I will be there [in the Knesset], and that they are relying on me and our proud of me. It was very exciting.
This Knesset has a record high number of women and Arabs. How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings? I think it gives different populations a place to express their opinions and take care of what is important to them.
What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
Our list is for two states for two nations and separation from the Palestinians. However, as of now there’s no serious partner for negotiations. When there is, we will be there.
What impact do you think the tension in US-Israel relations will have on us in the next few years?
I think there is clearly tension and it’s the senior statesmen’s job to take care of it and prevent a crisis. The US is such an important ally of ours – the most important one – and we can’t let the tension continue.
I have no doubt that the whole situation created between the two countries must be fixed.
What should the government’s response be to growing global anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism is a global problem. Hating one group of people because of where they come from is a problem that must be uprooted. The behavior toward Jewish people just because they are Jewish disturbs me. We, as a country, have to try to eradicate this phenomenon outside of Israel through public diplomacy and education. The incidents are very disturbing.
Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat and kashrut?
I think that public transportation on Shabbat is something we need to take care of. People, mostly those of limited means who don’t have a car, want to visit their children and can’t. We need to look at each municipality and see which needs [transportation on Shabbat]. It’s not for everyone, but there are places that need it – certainly towns that are secular by definition.
What can be done to lower the cost of housing?
First of all, we need [Kulanu chairman Moshe] Kahlon to be finance minister. We need to deal with the Israel Lands Authority and free up more land for young couples and single people who want to buy an apartment at a reasonable price, so it is not just a dream. We also need a fair rent law, so that there are reasonable prices for renters.
What should the government do to lower the poverty rate?
First of all, they need to read the Alalouf Report [on poverty, the product of a Welfare Ministry-sponsored committee led by new Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf] and implement it. The last government didn’t implement any of his recommendations.
The committee sat for days and nights, wrote a thorough report and found solutions – not just increasing [National Insurance Institute] allotments, but finding ways to close social gaps.
Is there something else people should know about you?
People should know that I came to work for the public. They sent me to the Knesset, and I plan to fulfill my public responsibility. That is what is most important to me, that I am in the Knesset for the public.