Meet the MK: Tamar Zandberg

Zandberg hopes to use her experience and make changes on the national stage.

Tamar Zandberg (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tamar Zandberg
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
On Sunday morning, Tamar Zandberg, who goes by “Tami,” tweeted “good morning first grade,” with a picture of the Knesset, as she headed into a workshop for new MKs. After years as a Meretz parliamentary assistant and Tel Aviv city councilwoman, Zandberg hopes to use her experience and make changes on the national stage.
Name: Tamar Zandberg Party: Meretz Age: 36 Hometown: Tel Aviv Family status: Divorced, one child Profession before becoming an MK: Tel Aviv city councilwoman, parliamentary aide to Meretz MK Ran Cohen
Why did you decide to enter politics?
I’m not new in politics, even though I’m new in the Knesset. I had a political job before this, on the Tel Aviv City Council. My job is political, and the Knesset is the central place for that. I thought I was at a point in my public career where I’m ready, so I ran, and I’m happy I was elected.
What are the first three bills you plan to propose?
There are many topics that remain with me from my work in Tel Aviv, like affordable housing, public transportation in general, and specifically on Saturdays. I also have a broad, developed portfolio of feminist ideas, and I hope to get to other areas of my left-wing ideology, like the peace process and social justice in general.
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
The campaign was one long sequence of amazing experiences. I think the intensive experience of meeting the public, people of all types and from all sectors, was very interesting. I went to high schools and colleges and nursing homes, and the fascinating lesson I learnt is that everyone cares about the same issues. In Druse villages, or in the wealthiest neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, I heard the same complaints. I will take that lesson with me to the Knesset.This Knesset has a record number of women and religious people. How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings?
We may have the highest number of women ever, but it is still very low and far from the goal of 50 percent, which is the percentage of women among the public. When I look at the Knesset, I think its makeup is encouraging compared to the last one, which was full of right-wing, conservative extremists. The new Knesset is a call for change from the public, especially from new, young MKs. The change of generations is the big story here.
Do you think haredim and Arabs should do military or national service, and if so, how should the state enforce it?
I think the topic of equality in the burden has lost all proportion. This militaristic discourse is passe. We need to think out of the box for new ideas to take Israel forward.
In the case of haredim, one of the problems is that the exemption [from IDF service] keeps them out of work, which then brings them poverty and economic problems for the whole country. This needs to be fixed, not necessarily through enlistment, but by allowing them to enter the work-force.
A lot needs to be fixed before Arabs are forced to enlist. There is built-in discrimination against them, which is a tradition over the years, and on top of that there is the occupation. We need to deal with that before deciding if they have to serve or not.Do you support a religious-Zionist chief candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for the chief rabbinate?
We haven’t decided, as a faction, what our opinion is on that issue, but I think it is very important. I am worried about the direction national Zionism is going in, which is extreme nationalism and sanctification of the land. This is why we can’t reach a peace agreement.
What can be done to lower the cost of housing in Israel?
The price of housing isn’t like the price of cottage cheese. It’s much more complex. No government has dealt with this properly, and now it is a crisis. One of the messages of the [summer 2011] social protests is that we need a national emergency plan to deal with everything: Ownership of the land, allowing builders to use the land, mortgage issues, lack of public housing, and more. We need a comprehensive, broad solution. Meretz plans to propose a national plan that will include all of the issues.What do you think can be cut from the budget, which must be passed within 45 days of the government’s swearing in? Budget cuts will only increase the deficit. We need to totally change our priorities. This government brought in neoliberal policies making tycoons and settlers richer. Public criticism was so clear [in the 2011 protests].
Our policy is social-democratic, and wants to split resources in a different way, so everyone can grow and we will move out of this recession. The last government cut social services and increased the deficit, which is a special talent; I don’t know how they did it. We need something else.What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
Meretz supports a Palestinian state beyond the Green Line, with changes in the borders. Talks should begin immediately. Extremists on both sides have gotten stronger as a result of the diplomatic freeze.Do you support the adoption of the Edmund Levy Report, which recommends the state approve unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
George Orwell wrote about the government trying to say lies are the truth in 1984. Lots of reports can say there is no occupation, but there is a reality in the territories. We are occupying a foreign nation with a military government and preventing the people there from exercising political rights. If that’s not occupation, then what is?