Ayelet Shaked tells 'Post’ about the dramatic turnaround in her career

Political Affairs: Ready to fight on the Right

AYELET SHAKED: Without a big, strong United Right there is no chance settlement annexation will happen (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
AYELET SHAKED: Without a big, strong United Right there is no chance settlement annexation will happen
If there is any proof to the adage that anything can happen in a democracy, it is the past several months of Ayelet Shaked.
Shaked followed her political partner Naftali Bennett out of their comfort zone in Bayit Yehudi, formed the New Right Party with great fanfare, watched it fall below the electoral threshold, got fired from her post as justice minister, prepared for nonpolitical life with her family, accepted calls to return and took the top spot on the United Right list that is currently polling third behind the Likud and Blue and White.
And all of those dramatic developments took place between December 29 and July 29.
Shaked and her family would have been happy had she really been permitted to take a break from politics. But instead she now finds herself in the political battle of her life.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his primary target in the September 17 election this week from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to Shaked. He wrote an article that was a declaration of war on her on the cover of his flagship newspaper, Israel Hayom, pressed Likud MKs to take five seats away from United Right and told his associates that his goal is to “crush the almond” (“shaked” in Hebrew).
But Shaked is out to prove that she is a tough nut to crack. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the Knesset, where she is currently not an MK, Shaked vowed to counter Netanyahu’s efforts against her and her party and emerge stronger than ever.
“Netanyahu always takes our votes at the end, but we have a plan for the end of the race this time, and you will see it,” Shaked promised. “I hope Jerusalem Post readers who are undecided will realize that what must happen in the race is that the Right bloc must be larger and that our politicians are loyal to the Right.”
To that end, while Netanyahu forced his top 40 candidates to swear loyalty to him, Shaked asked hers to express their devotion to her party’s key values. Shaked said by casting ballots for her party, “voters get those values and Netanyahu as prime minister.”
When asked who United Right will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin to form the government, Shaked does not say Netanyahu outright.
“We will recommend the leader of the Right, and right now that is Netanyahu,” she said carefully.
Asked about alternatives to Netanyahu within the Likud, she said: “I don’t pick the leader of another party. Likud picked Netanyahu.”
Although no one could tell what would happen if the next election does not yield a majority for one of the political blocs, Shaked said, she vowed that there would not be a third round of elections. “What I can promise is that the Knesset won’t dissolve itself again. There won’t be repeat elections.”
Regarding a possible final indictment for Netanyahu in December, the former justice minister said she does not know what Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will decide, and that she hopes he does not indict Netanyahu.
Asked what she would do if he does, she escaped the question by saying that she and her fellow United Right leaders have not yet decided what to do.
But one option is out of the question: She completely vetoed joining a government led by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, whom she called “a leftist who shouldn’t be embarrassed about it” and his party, which she called “left-wing with three right-wing fig leafs” in Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser.
The secular Shaked explored the possibility of entering the Likud but was blocked. She downplayed the possibility that she would make that shift in the future by saying that “heading the ideological Right is more important than being in the Likud,” but that she “won’t look too far into the future yet.”
Shaked and Bennett debated their political direction for weeks. Both wanted to use the platform of the New Right, but while Bennett thought it should run separately from more hard-line religious-Zionist parties, she thought all the major parties to the Right of the Likud need to run together.
The reasons to unite included crossing the electoral threshold and because “uniting religious Zionism with all its sub-streams and colors is correct.”
There were reports that as part of the Shaked-Bennett deal, he gets to pick their top portfolio. She said they decided to leave the issue unspoken.
“Our goal is to get the double figures in mandates that will bring about the portfolios,” she said. “Then, we’ll see. You can trust our partnership. Right now, we are focusing on our campaign. Let’s get the mandates first.”
Shaked asked Bennett to lead the New Right’s negotiations with Bayit Yehudi and the National Union, which led to the United Right’s formation. Now, the next task she entrusted him with is heading three key campaigns for the votes of Russian-, French- and English-speaking Israelis.
As head of the Anglo campaign, Bennett will replace former Post columnist Caroline Glick, who ran with the New Right in the April election and whom Shaked called “incredible and terrific.” Glick is not running in the September race.
“Bennett, who comes from an English-speaking home, can speak to Anglos better than anyone,” Shaked said of the Haifa-born politician and son of immigrants from the United States.
The New Right has membership forms in English, and the United Right will publish an English platform. Shaked said one of her party’s campaign promises will be to help get degrees and professional certificates from English-speaking countries recognized by the state with less bureaucracy.
In the April election, Glick helped the New Right win Efrat, which was the only city the party won when New Right failed to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.
“Jerusalem Post readers brought us what we won,” she said. “Your readers are part of my base.”
Among the mistakes made in the April race, Shaked said, were speaking too much about the portfolios the party sought, and running too positive a campaign when Netanyahu sought to take away their voters in the final days. Shaked will not shy away from attacking Netanyahu on issues like building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Asked about Netanyahu’s pledge shortly before the last elections to begin annexing settlements, as many on the Right have demanded, Shaked said she does not trust him to follow through on such promises.
“Without a big, strong United Right, there is no chance that it will happen. The only ones who will push it are us,” said Shaked.
New Right’s policy is to advance the annexation of Area C of the West Bank and apply Israeli law and sovereignty over the Israeli settlements in the territory.
She chastised Netanyahu for failing to do more on such matters, saying in particular that he could have built “tens of thousands” of housing units in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, across the Green Line, and that her party would advance such construction.
ONE OF the principal legislative goals of New Right, Shaked said, will be to push forward a basic law to enable the Knesset to override a High Court of Justice decision to strike down a piece of legislation, a bill she introduced during the last Knesset.
The legislation would actually enact in law the right of the High Court of Justice to strike down legislation but would also grant the Knesset the ability to override such decisions with a simple majority of 61 MKs.
Shaked said that Bayit Yehudi’s efforts to pass the override law were stymied during the last government by Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu Party, who insisted that a majority higher than 61 MKs be required.
The former justice minister said that she would not compromise on the need for a bare majority for the override law, saying there would “not be much point” to it if a higher majority were required, since it would be too difficult to obtain.
Asked if she is not worried about a “tyranny of the majority,” given the lack of other checks and balances in Israel’s political system, she argued that there had been no such problems before the judicial activism revolution of former High Court president Aharon Barak, which began in the 1990s.
“There is no country in the world where the court has these powers without legislation, and where the judges are not appointed by politicians,” argued Shaked, saying that it was the High Court that had breached the balance between the branches of government.
She defended legislation that the Knesset passed to detain for long periods African asylum-seekers and migrants, although she conceded that “you could understand” why the High Court had struck down the first iteration of the law, which allowed for the indefinite detention of such people.
Shaked pointed out that it had been a temporary law for three years and would have had to be re-legislated for its terms to continue.
“The government won’t easily re-legislate a law that was struck down; not every law that the High Court strikes down will be re-legislated,” she argued, adding that the override legislation would itself be a temporary law which would need to be passed anew in the Knesset in four years’ time.
SHAKED WAS less forthcoming about her stance on issues of religion and state, which are a sensitive spot for the New Right, given on the one hand its emphasis on attracting secular voters and on the other its union with the socially conservative Bayit Yehudi and National Union parties.
She said explicitly that she does not support civil marriage in Israel, despite the estimated 600,000 citizens who cannot marry in the country for various reasons, since only religious marriage is recognized by the state.
Asked if she personally supports civil marriage, Shaked said “no,” and said New Right would not back legislation for it.
Asked if she would support proposals for civil partnerships which have been put forward by some religious leaders – such as former chief Sephardi rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron – as a compromise, she said that “other options can be discussed.”
“I am not in favor of coercion, not from a religious or secular direction,” she said, adding that “there is great significance that this is a Jewish state, and I am very much in favor of protecting the Jewish character of the state.”
Shaked insisted that concerns over matters of religion in public life were overblown, and said that a “glass half full, not half empty” attitude is needed, and that the recent focus on such issues by some party leaders was politically motivated.
“I think, as a secular woman who heads a religious party and lives in Tel Aviv, we don’t have so many problems on religion and state,” she said. “Politicians, like Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman, are trying to create these problems for all different reasons and interests in order to get more votes.
“I believe in living together. We can find solutions. Everyone must have their rights, and in fact everyone gets their rights.”