Meet the New MK: Miki Zohar

Likud MK says undivided Jerusalem is most important.

Miki Zohar. (photo credit: COURTESY OF MIKI ZOHAR)
Miki Zohar.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF MIKI ZOHAR)
Name: Miki Zohar
Party: Likud
Age: 35
Hometown: Kiryat Gat
Family status: Married with four children
Profession before becoming an MK: Two months ago, I finished my internship to become a lawyer and recently finished a MA in law. Before that, I worked in real estate. I was also deputy mayor of Kiryat Gat, which is not a paid position.
Why did you decide to enter politics? Up until now i worked for the people of Kiryat Gat, and now I have the great privilege to work for all the people of Israel.

What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
I want to raise allowances for the elderly and to work to lower the cost of living and housing prices.

What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
The most interesting thing for me was reaching the conclusion that the media can't determine the result of an election. People see what the media says every day and you start to believe you're going to lose. The media created a reality, and then there was an election and everything was overturned. I realized that the people are smart and they know what's right for them, and they act according to that, not according to what the media presents.

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? 
I think it's a positive thing that more women are entering politics, because the population is 50% men and 50% women and we all work together. More women in politics will bring the appropriate balance to the Knesset.
As for Israeli Arabs, the Israeli population is part Arab and they have equal rights. As long as [Arab] parliamentarians recognize that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel, meaning the Jewish People, I have no problem with their presence and I respect them.
What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state? I think that we don't have a partner with whom to negotiate. I think the Palestinian people first have to choose a leader that truly wants peace with Israel, and they have to admit and understand that the Jewish People have a right to this country and no one else does. They have to acknowledge that the Jewish People are not occupiers and the Jewish People are here because they have a right to, not because someone did them a favor. When there is a Palestinian leader like that, we can talk to him and reach peace.

What impact do you think the tension in US-Israel relations will have on us in the next few years?
The American people and its elected officials are clearly our allies. Unfortunately, there  is personal tension between their president and our prime minister - though I still can't understand where it comes from. I'm sure it won't hurt the strong relationship between the US and Israel at every possible level. I very much hope that the elected officials of the US will continue to protect Israel's security interests and will prevent a bad deal [with Iran] that is about to be signed.

What should the government’s response be to growing global anti-Semitism?
I think that anti-Semitism is something that existed throughout Jewish history and will always continue to exist, because we are the chosen people. As a result, millions of Jews gathered in the Land of Israel. I would recommend to all Jews around the world to make aliya to Israel, and our special nation will join together and protect each other. That deep connection is what characterizes [the Jewish People] and it is a supreme value. Anti-Semitism will continue, but we can deal with it by working to improve ourselves all the time. The best response to anti-Semitism is the success of the Jewish People.

Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat and kashrut?
I think that the State of Israel is Jewish and democratic. It has to act according to Jewish principles, first and foremost, but also democratic ones. As people who were born Jewish, we should be committed to Jewish tradition that says we rest on Shabbat and that a wedding is between people of different genders, so I can't say changing that is OK. At the same time, I am a liberal person and I think we should live and let live. I don't judge anyone. However, the traditions of the nation need to stay Jewish, the way it commanded to us thousands of years ago.
What can be done to lower the cost of housing? There are many solutions, but the central one is flooding the market with houses. Once we do that, the prices will automatically go down. We have to set target prices, too, and give incentives to developers who sell homes at the price set by the state. We should also have location-based loans, for example, loans for young couples that want to live in the periphery. Those are the main solutions. Some smaller ones could be tax benefits for people who sell the second or third property they own, and increasing taxes for people buying their third or more property. All of those could significantly lower housing prices.
What should the government do to lower the poverty rate? I think that the minute we raised minimum wage [on April 1] - and soon it will go up more - it will impact the situation. Together with that, we have to lower the prices of basic food items. Once we lower the cost of living by a few percent and raise minimum wage, poverty will disappear, because people will earn more from working and it will cost less to survive. Raising allowances for people who don't work is more complex and difficult. However, I think we have to raise allowances for the elderly, and that will help lower their poverty rates. But those are just some of the solutions in brief.
Is there something else people should know about you? Since this is The Jerusalem Post, it's important for me to say that I think Jerusalem should be our undivided capital for all eternity. That is the most important message which the Jewish People should always be aware of. Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish People and no one else.