Sa'ar to CNN: I intend to win, I believe Israelis will create the change

Interviewed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Gideon Sa'ar insisted that the Israeli society must be unified again as "divisions are very dangerous for the future of Israel."

CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewing Gideon Sa'ar (photo credit: Courtesy)
CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewing Gideon Sa'ar
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Former Likud and PM Netanyahu supporter Gideon Sa’ar was interviewed on Thursday night on CNN by anchor Christiane Amanpour about his new political party, and his decision to break apart from Netanyahu’s leadership.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour: Why are you challenging your close ally and mentor [Benjamin Netanyahu]?
Gideon Sa'ar: In politics, you can support someone as long as you think he is doing the right thing for the country. What happened during the last two elections demonstrated totally the opposite. We are now in Israel in front of the fourth election campaign within two years. It is unprecedented, and this political instability influences economic and social instability and people in Israel want change in order to bring Israel back on track.
Once again, there is another issue: We must bring our society together again. We have a very severe polarization, divisions in our society, and I don’t think that Mr. Netanyahu will be able to unite the nation. I am not sure if it is in his interest, and I am sure I can do it. 
So for all these reasons, so many Israelis want to open a new page, to have a ‘New Hope,’ and this is why I decided to establish this new party and to compete, to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. 
C.A: I wanna pick you up on “I’m sure I can do it,” because as you have seen, and I said, four elections in the last two years. He pretty much “won” (with coalitions)  each and every one of them. They didn’t last. The last one was with Benny Gantz, and that sort of central lefty movement there. You are coming at it from a different angle. Obviously, from a very similar political angle as Benjamin Netanyahu, which is the right. 
What makes you think that you have any better chance of defeating the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister? What makes you think you could do it? 
G.S: You can see it from the minute our party was established, in all the polls, that it changed the political map. We are a center-right party, but we do think we must have an alternative to someone who holds power for 15 years. It is a very long time. By the way, my intention, as the first thing I will do, is to change the law and make limit terms of maximum 8 years in power.
So many Israelis that share my views think we need a change and we think we need to create a different atmosphere in our society. We don’t see someone with different views, even though he is our political opponent, as our enemy. We see him as a brother with different views. We work in order to convince the public that we are right.
But the thing today in Israel is that these divisions are very dangerous to our future because we have huge national challenges, and unity is not only a value, it is also a national asset in terms of national security. And we must restore it.
C.A:  The latest polls indicated that Netanyahu and Likud are ahead of New Hope. Would you enter a coalition with Netanyahu and Likud?
G.S: No I won’t because in a democracy, I take it seriously to bring the public an alternative. I intend to win and I believe that the majority of Israel will create the change on March 23rd. But if you don’t win, in politics, you go to the opposition. 
I don’t intend in any way to go in a government with positions I don’t believe in, we are a strong alternative. We have more and more support from day to day, and I believe we will be able to form the new government of Israel after this election.
C.A:  Does that mean you would go into a coalition with more left wing and green parties, or with the Israeli Arab parties? 
You are talking about potentially strange bedfellows, given again your political background, and your political sentiments. I mean you are a pro-settler party, you share many of the same politics as Netanyahu.
G.S: We don’t exclude center-left parties. By the way, netanyahu always set with the left parties, including today in his coalition.
The issue with the arab list is problematic due to his views that create gaps. We are fully supporting equality to all of our citizens, we have, in my party, also Israelis Arabs.
It is very important for us to respect minorities but with the Joint Arab list, it is their positions that make this cooperation and coalition very very difficult, but yes, we are not excluding any parties, even though they are from center left. We will be able to create a government with all the parties that agree to the basic principle of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state, and that agree to our plans for the nations for the coming years. 
C.A: Can I turn to the health crisis that is spreading to the world, and to your country as well. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting some good reviews for rolling out the vaccine in your country that is number one in the world for vaccinating proportionally to your population. 
First of all, how is that going? You are also at the same time in a third wave, and in a lockdown ..
How is that going?
G.S: There is progress in the vaccination process and I praise the Prime Minister for what he has done in that respect, but it doesn't really seem from a responsibility for a huge failure managing this crisis. We are already in the fourth closure of the country already, huge crisis for our economy, and I see that very simple things that the government should have done during this time, they failed to do so. For us, we are not over yet. I think we should work in order to minimize the problems and difficulties for our citizens during the coming months, also for our state. 
We are really in a deep crisis, and the problem is that the government was not able to stabilize the situation. They have not approved the budget for personal reasons that cause severe damages to Israel. All the necessary reforms that are necessary in order to restore growth were left behind, and we are again in an electoral campaign. 
So for all these reasons, I think the Israeli public knows there is a failure handling the coronavirus crisis.
C.A: As you know, the United Nations, and many Human rights groups, not to mention the Palestinians themselves have complained bitterly they are not getting a fair shake when it comes to vaccination as well. 
Mustafa Barghouthi, who is also a physician, he is a Palestinian political leader also, (Former Palestinian Minister) wrote this in the New York Times:
“The Israeli government decision to make the vaccine available only to Israeli citizens is not just a moral injustice, it is self-defeating. Herd immunity will not be achieved for Israelis without vaccinating Palestinians.”
I wonder, if you were Prime Minister, you would make sure that Palestinians “in the occupied West bank” and in Gaza did actually get, fairly treated, these vaccinations as well?
It is part of the Oslo Accords, and it is part of the Geneva Convention, for an “occupying power” to take care of the medical needs of the citizens. 
G.S: As you know, after the Oslo Accords, and after our withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, and in the Gaza Strip are under Palestinian control. It is the responsibility if the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime to take care of their residents. 
We would like to help, we will be able to help, only after taking care of our own citizens.
C.A: I guess that’s a pretty severe message to the Palestinians. Do you not think that you also could work together... It is a pandemic 
G.S: I think it is a good message. Because I said, we are ready to help, but we will be able to help only after taking care of our own citizens. I think that the Palestinian Authority has enough money to pay salaries to terrorists, murderers, to those who are getting rewards for crimes they are doing against Israel.
C.A, interrupting him: These are two different things
G.S: If they [Palestinians] have money for that, they can take care of their residents. 
C.A, interrupting him again: These are two different issues
G.S: No, they are not.
C.A: This is a global pandemic. Everybody has to be dealt with, or not.
Let me just move on because I need to ask you one more question about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
I want to know whether you agree with what Benjamin Netanyahu raised, and that was the annexation with US approval, of the West Bank settlements, and part of the West Bank. Is that something that you would do and carry out if you became Prime Minister? 
G.S: I see as our objective in the future to implement Israeli law on our communities in Judea and Samaria, not over the Palestinian Authority’ territories, but on our communities in Judea and Samaria. But Prime Minister Netanyahu, in the context of normalization with Arab countries, agreed to suspend the issue of sovereignty in his dialogue with the Trump administration. As a Prime Minister I will respect the previous commitment of an Israeli Prime Minister to the American administration.
C.A: Alright, that’s loud and clear. Including the next administration, let me just get that straight?
G.S: There is a continuation as much as the Prime Minister in Israel respects the previous commitment of the previous government. I don’t see a difference if now the administration [in the United States] is different.
In that respect, it’s a commitment and I hope that the next administration in Washington will continue to promote peace with other Arab countries. It is a very important issue in order to reach peace and stability in the Middle East.