Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick wants to run for President

Glick explains why he has what it takes to replace Reuven Rivlin

Yehuda Glick hands out heart tokens outside the Likud polling station, February 2019.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Yehuda Glick hands out heart tokens outside the Likud polling station, February 2019.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Might Israel get its first-ever president who was born in the United States?
Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick hopes so.
Glick announced last month that he intends to run for president in a vote that will take place in the Knesset in May or June.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1965 and made aliyah with his family nine years later to Beersheba, where his father, Professor Shimon Glick, helped start the medical school at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Glick made a name for himself as an activist for enabling Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. But his activism also made him enemies. Next Thursday will be the sixth anniversary of the assassination attempt that almost resulted in his death. Islamic Jihad terrorist Mutaz Hijazi approach Glick outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, called him “an enemy of al-Aksa” and shot him from close range in his chest and stomach.
Glick miraculously recovered and returned to his activism. An unknown Likud activist at the time named Amir Ohana volunteered to be his bodyguard. They both ended up entering the Knesset not much later. Ohana quickly rose to become justice minister and now public security minister. Glick was sworn in on May 25, 2016, after former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon resigned from the Knesset.
Glick surprised anyone who saw him as an extremist by becoming a bridge-builder in the Knesset, building friendships across the political spectrum, including with Arab MKs. It is that bridge-building that Glick hopes to continue out of the President’s Residence and across the country, he said, in an interview with the Magazine.
“The president of Israel is much more than just a symbol,” he said. “He represents the spirit of the nation. There is a great divide in Israel because of politics and COVID-19. We need a place where the people can express how they feel.”
Glick likes to compare the president to the conductor of an orchestra.
“We don’t see his face,” he said. “We see his back, while he gets all of the instruments to play together.”
Glick said he has learned the needs of different sectors of Israeli society. He does not shy away from criticizing current President Reuven Rivlin, who he believes has not been enough of a unifying figure.
“Over last two years of political fighting, there has been no one who can unite the nation,” he lamented. “The president has been preaching. People don’t like to be scolded. They like to be listened to.”
Rivlin delivered an address at the opening session of the Knesset’s winter session last week that Glick considered less than presidential.
“It was a political speech that took a side,” Glick said. “Half the people thought it was a great speech, and half thought it was terrible. People don’t think he is listening to them.”
Glick’s slogan for his race is “a president with he’arat panim,” which the Babylon Hebrew-English dictionary translates into “kindness, cordiality, amiability and welcoming” but literally means that he lights up people’s faces.
“I arrived in the Knesset with an image as a very extreme person,” he said. “Little by little, I succeeded in creating a discourse across all the divides. What was the secret? He’arat panim. In politics, we tend to look for each other’s failures and hit them below the belt. What we need is to accept others as they are, welcome them and bring out the best in them. It starts with first impressions, leads to building trust, listening and inclusiveness.”  
Glick takes pride in the meetings he had as an MK with representatives of the left-wing lobby J Street and with Christian Evangelicals, because his views were very different than those of his counterparts, but they could still listen and learn from each other. He also has made a point of speaking to demonstrators against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his home in Jerusalem’s diverse Kiryat Menachem neighborhood.
While Glick has met recently with 40 MKs about his run for president, it is still unclear whether the demonstrators will get their way and an election will be initiated. If that happens, the next president could be selected by a new Knesset. By law, a new president must be elected between 30 and 90 days before the current president’s seven-year term ends. Rivlin’s tenure will end on July 24. The Knesset speaker and his deputies set the date, which must be at least three weeks after the date’s announcement. The deadline for any citizen to announce his or her candidacy is two weeks before the election. To run, a candidate must submit the signatures of 10 supporters among the 120 MKs.
The speaker must announce the list of candidates at least a week before the election in the Knesset. To win, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of 61 MKs in a secret ballot vote. If, in a first round of voting, no candidate receives a majority, another round is held with the top two finishers from the first round participating in the runoff. A third round would be held if the two candidates finish in a tie.
Because the race is held by secret ballot, it is one of the few votes in the Knesset that does not go by party lines. That is why it is important to Glick to stress that he is not running as a representative of a specific party. Glick said he hoped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would support him. But he has not spoken yet to the prime minister, who has undoubtedly not forgotten that in the December 2019 Likud leadership race, Glick backed challenger Gideon Sa’ar.
Currently, no Likud candidate has thrown his hat in the ring. Until recently, it was seen as likely that there would be a run by Knesset speaker turned Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who once employed Glick as a spokesman. Glick made a point of checking and found out that Edelstein no longer intended to run. The most likely candidates are Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, whose father Chaim Herzog was president; former minister Shimon Shetreet; Economy Minister Amir Peretz and Israel Prize-winning educator Miriam Peretz (no relation). But the field is far from set.
“I have started meeting with all 120 MKs, but I will be meeting with the public as well,” he said. “I have begun a journey. Once the people are convinced that I am the right man for the job, the MKs will, too.”
Glick also wants to be there for Diaspora Jews and represent Israel to non-Jews around the world, serving as a blessing to all nations.
“I am bothered by the divide between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora,” he said. “I would develop dialogue with the Diaspora and listen to them. Both sides can benefit from listening to each other and understanding each other.”
Glick said he sees his American upbringing as an asset, because the president must speak English well and because it helps to know how to be inclusive and understand the importance of diversity.
“I am here to listen to everyone’s pain,” he said. “I want to be there for everyone. I felt something had to be done. If I sat at home and didn’t run, I wouldn’t ever be able to forgive myself.”