Meet the MK: David Tsur

David Tsur, No. 6 on The Tzipi Livni Party list, is one of two new incoming MKs from his party, but is no stranger to issues of public and personal security after over 30 years with the IDF and police.

David Tsur 370 (photo credit: Courtesy The Tzipi Livni Party)
David Tsur 370
(photo credit: Courtesy The Tzipi Livni Party)
Name: David Tsur Party: The Tzipi Livni Party Age: 53 Resides in: Givatayim Family status: Widower, 3 children Birthplace: Turkey, made aliya in 1965 Profession before becoming an MK: Israel Police Tel Aviv District Commander 2004 – 2008, Border Police Commander 2004 – 2008
Why did you decide to enter politics?
That’s a tough question. I spent 30 years in public service, and left five years ago to work in the private sector.
I opened a consulting company on large sporting events, like the Olympics and the World Cup, and was a strategic adviser to states fighting terror and serious crime. I’ve known Tzipi Livni since 1990, when she was a lawyer doing pro bono work for an organization that had to do with the YAMAM, and I was YAMAM commander. We have been in touch since then, and she asked me to join her because of our similar worldview on diplomatic and socioeconomic issues. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have considered entering politics, but I also suppose I wanted it in some way.
What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
I don’t have prepared bills that I can propose, but there are topics that interest me. I’m connected to social issues, like kibbutzim and moshavim in the Negev, and personal security, which is what I dealt with in my career. I want to cut bureaucracy that creates bottlenecks and stops businesses from opening and developing. Getting permits is a long, tiring story for citizens and local authorities. Of course, what I can do depends what position I’m in [in the Knesset].
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
Meeting people on the ground, like on the party’s week-long bus tour of Israel. I saw a lot of admiration for me, as someone coming in from outside of politics, from security. I wasn’t seen as an average politician. I saw excitement and was very surprised by the level of involvement and volunteerism.
When I was in the private sector, I wasn’t aware of the level of desire people had to be involved in public life. It felt good to see that people cared.
This Knesset has a record high number of women and religious people.How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings?
I’m a very liberal person, and I always thought that to attempt to catalog people by gender or kippa is a mistake. In my eyes, that should not have meaning. People should be [in the Knesset] because of their talents, abilities and ideology; that’s it.
The fact that there are many women in the Knesset will bring improvements in the status of women. I don’t see any reason for gaps in salary that still exist despite laws against it. There should be gender equality in everything. I hate the exclusion of women, a dark trend that I don’t understand. I hope the knitted kippot [religious Zionists] in the Knesset don’t think that way.
I hope the Knesset’s 48 new members will bring a change in its public image. Every other person that knows me asked why I would want to “get dirty” in the Knesset, but I don’t think public service should be seen as dirty.
Do you think haredim and Arabs should do military or national service, and if so, how should the state enforce it?
Definitely yes. I think it’s for their own good, and for the good of the state. I don’t believe there will be full equality in the burden, because even within the secular population, not everyone is carrying it the same way.
For those who do serve, only 10-15 percent do reserve duty after their two or three years in the army.
We don’t need [haredi soldiers] charging up hills [in combat service], but we want them to be part of the national partnership, and gradually make it into the workforce. I also think we don’t need to put people in jail if they refuse to serve. We need to come to understandings, because we are dealing with people. Now that the election and the propaganda are over, we need to get down to details. This is a strong time to make change. The people spoke, and this is one of the central topics on voters’ agenda. Even the haredi parties understand this situation can’t continue.
I think it’s a bigger threat than external ones.
The person who put this issue on the agenda is former OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen Elazar Stern (res.) Elazer Stern, No. 4 on our list.
He composed the plan that [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid adopted.
Do you support a religious-Zionist chief candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for the chief rabbinate?
Yes. In my opinion, we need whoever, at the end of the day, will be a bridge that can connect people to Judaism but understand needs in a secular pluralist society. He needs to make marriage and conversion easier, and allow same-sex marriage, but still preserve Judaism. We should stop the paternalism on family life, but do what we can to bring people closer [to Judaism].
What can be done to lower the cost of housing in Israel?
This is a very complicated issue, but in general, we need to stop profiteering from the land and make it more available to entrepreneurs so the supply is larger.
The government has been trying to increase its income from land, while businessmen have to spend more to use it, and that cost is passed on to the people. It will be worth it to build if there is regulation making land cheaper and requiring 14-15% of apartments to be public, affordable housing. The criteria to live in public housing should be ability to make a living, not number of children or how many years a couple was married or other tricks that we need to get rid of.
We need to start in the periphery.
In my eyes, the city in which I grew up, Ashkelon, is not the periphery. If there is good public transportation, it will bring down prices, and we can convince young couples to live there.
I also think populating the Negev and Galilee is a national mission.
Still, the problems can’t be solved when there's a big deficit, so [politicians] need to stop sloganeering.
The deficit needs to be covered first, otherwise a big drop in housing prices could bring an economic crash, like in America.
What do you think can be cut in the budget, which must be passed within 45 days of the government’s swearing-in?
I’m not an expert in all areas of the budget. I know the defense budget needs to be cut, and we need to make long-term plans.
Checks can’t be written if they’re not covered, which is what happened with the last government’s promises of free dental care and education from age three. Now there’s a huge deficit.
I’m against taxes on the middle class and the poor. We should have progressive taxes and not VAT on fruit and water, where everyone pays the same amount. We also need general cuts in government offices, but with a balance to avoid unemployment, so it doesn’t bring a recession.
We can still increase the deficit.
Inflation is bad, but it’s easier to control than high unemployment. On the macro level, our economy is good, and that is a credit to the last government.
The most important thing in my opinion the best thing that can happen to our economy is handshake between the prime minister and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Peace will bring more than any economic model, and will increase investments.
What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
We cannot abandon diplomacy or be silent about it. The election campaign is over, and now we need to deal with the real problems. [The Tzipi Livni Party] will raise this flag no matter how many seats we have. We need to sit in a room and put someone [who has won] a high level of trust [from the Palestinian Authority]. The diplomatic process Livni led in the time of former prime minister Ehud Olmert reached a very high level, and may have been completed if the government hadn’t fallen apart.
There’s a crisis of trust on both sides. The government has good reason not to trust the PA after a long settlement freeze that led to nothing.
Still, when we negotiate, they don’t shoot and the world doesn’t try to take the lead on talks.
In the last four years, what happened is something we didn’t want, the internationalization of the process. We’re an independent country strong enough to make our own decisions, but we still haven’t done that.
We can hold onto a dream that I believed in for a long time, of the entire Land of Israel, but there are dreams and there’s the reality we need to reach in the end. Livni offers two states for two nations, settlement blocs, a united Jerusalem, Israeli forces on the Jordan River and border crossings.