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MK Stav Shaffir .(Photo by: RAANAN TAL)
Stav Shaffir tells 'Post' about the 'urgency' of beating Netanyahu
By GIL HOFFMAN
09/13/2019
"Cancel vacations and vote!" she says.
There is arguably no politician on the Left who took more of a risk in this election than Democratic Union cochairwoman Stav Shaffir.

She left the Labor Party soon after finishing second in a Labor primary won by the 67-year-old Amir Peretz that could have made the 34-year-old Shaffir the heir apparent.

She arranged a marriage between unpopular former prime minister Ehud Barak and Meretz. She even had to quit the Knesset.

Polls currently forecast only five to seven seats for the Democratic Union, but in an interview with The Jerusalem Post at a café in Jaffa, she says she has no regrets.

She took that risk for the goal of doing whatever she could to bring about the defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She devoted the interview to pleading with readers to vote Netanyahu out.


What is your prediction for Election Day?

Netanyahu will try to make chaos, and not just with cameras.

I can’t answer how many seats we will get. But low turnout is bad for our democracy. Our supporters have a responsibility to go vote and to watch the polling places because of what Netanyahu will do. They should cancel their vacations. Jerusalem Post readers need to come from abroad and vote. People who care about their democracy need to come and vote and participate, like Irish people from around the world did [in May 2018] when there was a referendum for abortions to be legal.

People here have started to feel like they have no possibility to change anything. It has created a cynical atmosphere.


Do you regret leaving Labor, with your party not doing so well in the polls?

And allowing the entire Left to collapse? That was what Labor was allowing. If I didn’t push to form the Democratic Union with Barak and [Meretz leader] Nitzan Horowitz, two parties wouldn’t have crossed the threshold. I had to do what I did. In past elections, the Left didn’t unite, because of ego, and we lost.

We got a taste after the April election where a parliament that was not democratic anymore would lead us. [Netanyahu] wants an Erdogan-like regime. He will stop Israeli democracy. I had no choice but to leave my party and do what I did.

Trust me, the Democratic Union will be the new democratic party of Israel. Anyone who wants our socioeconomic policies will need us. Labor has its history, but the party of the future is the Democratic Union.


You think Netanyahu will take apart Israeli democracy completely?

He is already limiting democracy. He started by bringing the media to its knees. He did the same with the justice system. He went against the right to vote of Israeli citizens in the 2015 election, when he said that Arabs were coming to vote in droves. That statement meant that some votes are not legitimate. He nominated a state comptroller who takes steps against transparency and does not serve the public.

His first mission after the election would be to prevent him from going on trial, so he would take steps to limit the courts, starting with the Supreme Court override bill. People don’t realize that this bill would have an impact on every aspect of our lives. The Supreme Court stops polluting factories. The Court makes the government consider people’s health. Ask people from Arad and Haifa who suffered from such factories. They wouldn’t be protected by the courts anymore.


But neither Blue and White nor Likud want your party in a coalition, so what impact could you have?

The Likud also says it doesn’t want Blue and White, so maybe Blue and White’s strategy is wrong. We don’t want a right-wing coalition, and they shouldn’t either. Our ideal coalition is one that includes everyone who agrees to a two-state solution with recognized borders, increasing the investment in social services and changing the status quo on matters of religion and state.


Your party introduced an in-depth platform on matters of religion and state. Can you summarize it?

The plan says local authorities, and not the state rabbinate, should decide personal decisions on marriage and divorce. I respect people in Bnei Brak who don’t want public transportation on Shabbat, and they should respect my decision to take public transportation to visit my friends on Shabbat.

Religious councils have budgets of NIS 1.1 billion a year. Local governments should be able to decide to not have a religious council and have the people decide how to use the money instead. They can use it for affordable housing or for a music center. Most of the citizens don’t feel the influence of this billion shekels. Used differently, it could ensure that people could go to Haifa instead of Cyprus to get married outside the rabbinate.

Our plan also calls for ending the fake discourse on ultra-Orthodox army service. The army doesn’t care about having them serve. It’s much more important to get the ultra-Orthodox in the workforce. We say in this program live or let live. They can do civil service instead of army and can combine it with studying if they want and then be able to get a job.


Why don’t you say, like Blue and White and Labor, that a coalition with the Likud is OK as long as Netanyahu leaves?

With those who have been silent about what Netanyahu is doing? With those who are collaborating with the destruction of our democracy by a man trying to escape jail? Even if there are no allegations against him, they are collaborators. For the last few years, they have showed a lack of responsibility to the Israeli people. They will even let him annex the territories. I didn’t think before that he would do that. Now I think he will. He will sell out Zionism. The only person who decided to say something about this is Bennie Begin. There are Likud ministers under allegations, a culture minister who compared refugees to cancer.

On what are we supposed to agree with them? Why does Blue and White want to compromise with them? Should we have half a democracy? That compromise means there is no Israel anymore.


If you are so into transparency, why do you oppose Netanyahu’s effort to have cameras at polling stations?

I am for cameras in everything related to government. I want every meeting of the prime minister and attorney-general documented with a camera. They met many times with no protocol. I wish it could be done retroactively. As a former chair of the Knesset transparency committee, I want transparency everywhere. The Likud stopped it. If they cared about transparency, they had 200 years to prove it.

He knew the bill couldn’t be passed. He raised it a few days before the election to create chaos. I want to have cameras in every polling station broadcasting to a central authority. He wants to have lower Arab turnout.


What will happen to Israel if both Netanyahu and Trump win?

In 2015, Netanyahu created the biggest rift with the two parties in America when he went to give a speech in Congress behind [US president Barack] Obama’s back, harming relations with half of the US. He has never hesitated to hurt Israel’s relations to help his own campaign. We see how Bibi has managed to distance Democrats who love Israel within a few years. We cannot let Israel be a partisan issue in the US, and sadly it’s going there.

We established the democratic party of Israel. It is only natural that we stand with the fight for democratic values around the world. The right-wing leaders work with each other all over the world to advance their political causes. Democrats and progressives don’t do enough to help each other. We have to fight right-wing populists together.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we need the help of the international community to get better incentives and help those who want a peaceful solution to get stronger. The only way to fight for our democracy is to do it together.
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