(photo credit: Courtesy)
Name: Avraham Naguise
Hometown: Pisgat Ze’ev, Jerusalem
Year of Aliya: 1985 from Ethiopia
Family status: Married with 2 children
Profession before becoming an MK: Has a PhD in education and degrees in social work and law. Founder and director-general of South Wing to Zion, an advocacy organization for Ethiopian aliya and absorption. In that capacity, led the struggle to bring the rest of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel.
Why did you decide to enter politics?
I entered politics because I believed that to promote our community’s integration in Israeli society, we must be integrated in politics. The minute we become part of the political system, we have an influence in promoting our issues and in serving all the people of Israel. I also want to be a role model for our youth, so they’ll be motivated to join local and national politics. If we sit on the side and watch while others try to help us, we won’t get anywhere. If we do things on our own, we can help ourselves.
What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
I want to focus on social issues, which are very close to my heart. I want to help bring more equality and reduce social gaps and help new immigrants – not just from Ethiopia, but from the whole world – integrate into society.
I was elected in the Likud primary as the representative of new immigrants; therefore, I want to promote aliya. I believe that Israel can be strengthened as a Jewish and democratic state by bringing Jews from all four corners of the earth. I want to help make life better for new immigrants in areas of housing, employment and health. I want to make sure that laws passed in the Knesset are actually implemented, like the one requiring Ethiopian immigrants to be hired in government offices and government-owned companies.
I also want to deal with the issue of youth in distress, especially in the periphery. They need to be a priority and we have to create educational projects in underprivileged neighborhoods so that they can get higher education.
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
I ran in the Likud primary on the national level, and went around the country and met people from all parts of Israeli society. It was a great experience for me.
In the general campaign, on the day of the election, I went all over the country and saw people from my community working hand in hand with the rest of society in the election, in Likud and in other parties. They did it all democratically and understood one another, without physical or verbal altercations, and were friends with one another. It was moving to see what democracy really means. Israel is a democratic state and society, and it was quite the experience to see it in this way.
This Knesset has a record high number of women and Israeli Arabs. How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings?
First of all, it is good that all parts of the nation are represented. We will get a true picture of Israel, which is a very multicultural country. That makes me happy. We have representatives of women, new immigrants and Arabs, and I think we can all work together in the Knesset.
What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
In this area, my stance is that of the Likud. We have a prime minister whom we trust. He is a leader with experience and we stand behind him and strengthen him. We will support every initiative he wants to promote.
What impact do you think the tension in US-Israel relations will have on us in the next few years?
I think the relations between Israel and America are very strong and are incontrovertible. I think ties and cooperation will continue to be strong; we have a mutual interest in that.
What should the government’s response be to growing global anti-Semitism?
The State of Israel absorbs immigration from all four corners of the earth. This is the home of every Jewish person, and it is every Jewish person’s responsibility to defend it and explain to the world that Israel is a democratic state that embraces everyone as they are. We should explain it to people who don’t know that, so they will understand. Education and public diplomacy are very important.
I am an answer to those who attack and slander Israel. I grew up in a village in Africa as a shepherd, and moved to Israel, got a higher education with the support of the Israeli government, and reached the Knesset, as a lawmaker. That’s Israel. We help the weak. The slander of Israel is baseless. No country in the world does what Israel does.
Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut and others?
There is a status quo and I think we have to maintain it and there is no reason to change it. I think that it’s good for everyone.
What can be done to lower the cost of housing?
I hope the new government will make this issue a priority. The solution is construction. We have to build in the center of the country and other places where there is high demand. Freeing up land and building is the solution, which will lower prices.
What should the government do to lower the poverty rate?
I believe that lowering prices will reduce poverty. We can lower prices by lowering value-added tax. We can also create more workplaces. We also need to shrink the gap between the rich and the poor. The rich have to know how to share with those who have, by raising workers’ salaries. We should also increase privatization and competition, which will develop Israel’s economy.
Is there something else people should know about you?
I came to the Knesset with a lot of experience as an activist for aliya and absorption. I focused on those who came from Ethiopia, but now I have an historic opportunity to work for and serve the whole people of Israel. My office is open to all the people of Israel, and I will do what I can in the Knesset to shrink social gaps in all areas. I hope we will succeed in our mission.