I attended the Achdut v’Emunah event to hear some of the Likud Members of Knesset (and one that is running for the upcoming election for the first time) share their views in English. Although all of the Likud Knesset members were invited, only seven agreed to come – and then five cancelled out due to “other considerations”.
The two who showed up were Tzippy Hotobeli and Gila Gamliel. Yair Gabai, who is running for the next Knesset under the slot for the Jerusalem municipality, also came to share his views.
For those of you who are Likud members and will vote next Sunday in the primaries – please make sure to include all three in your list. Gila Gamliel is number 118, Tzippy Hotobeli is number 124, and if you live in Jerusalem, Yair Gabai’s number is 325.
The members were given a range of questions in advance, in order for them to be able to prepare their remarks in English (those of us who have made aliyah and have had to learn a second language can appreciate the difficulty in thinking on your feet in this kind of situation. That is why they were given the questions in advance).
I missed the first few questions as I was volunteering outside at the sign-in desk, but I did catch most of the questions and answers. The questions were about many topices but could be divided into “domestic” issues, reforms to the electoral and judicial systems in Israel, questions about the status of Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria), and open ended questions about what each Knesset member accomplished in the past four years and what issues they thought were most important in Israel today. (The event was recorded – I hope at some point to be able to link to the video, if and when it becomes available. For now please read my summary).
The domestic issues centered around the question of poverty in Israel and the housing crisis, and what solutions are possible to both problems. (For the sake of brevity I am combining the answers to separate questions when possible.)
Gila Gamliel: the solution to the problem of poverty is access to a good education, which should be free from the age of three months and up, including some college. In terms of the housing crisis, the Israel Lands Authority should release more land to be developed, which will ease the crisis.
Tzippy Hotobeli: the minimum wage in Israel should be raised. If two parents work they should be able to support the family. More housing and jobs should be developed in the periphery – namely in the Negev and the Galilee. She also suggested redistricting greater Jerusalem to include the areas south to Gush Etzion, and building in between.
Yair Gabbai: There should be redistricting in some areas so that the local taxes collected can help more people. He mentioned two areas – one very wealthy and one much less, where when the areas were redistricted the taxes collected helped both areas. He also mentioned that the poverty rates seem very high in some sectors because of the black market (those working and not declaring their income). In terms of housing he suggested that new building plans should be passed allowing 20,000 new units to be built both in the western side of Jerusalem (the Safdi plan, for those in the know) and in the area in the eastern part of Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim called E1.
A question was posed about deporting Africans who have come to Israel illegally:
Yair Gabbai: Yair quoted the concept in Jewish law that the poor of your own locality come first before the poor of other places. He also stated that many of the Africans coming to Israel are not refugees, they are coming to Israel to look for work, and that they should be deported.
Tzippy Hotobeli: Tzippy mentioned the dire need for very clear immigration laws, and following up on these laws.
Gila Gamliel: Gila is in favor of deporting those whose lives are not in danger (we should distinguish between those who are really refugees and those who are just here to find work).
Two questions were put forth regarding electoral and judicial reform – whether the system should be changed to raise the threshold for a party in the Knesset to 10 seats (versus two as it is now) and what should be done to reform the system of selecting judges for the Supreme Court.
Tzippy Hotobeli: Tzippy praised the American model of two large parties, and thinks that this should be a goal for the Israeli system. She does not think that it will be practical to change the system to 10 seats, as the small parties will always vote against this reform. She thinks that the best way to get to a system of large parties is for the parties themselves to run together, as is the case now with the Likud and Israel Beitenu. (A personal editorial note: electoral reform has been proposed throughout the course of modern Israeli history, starting in the 1950′s. It has never been approved. Tzippy knows what she is talking about..) She also pointed out that there is no such thing as the “center” in Israel – the left likes to call themselves the center but their policies are really left wing. In terms of judicial reform, Tzippy said that there is no such thing as an objective judge. When a judge puts on a robe he does not leave his personality and viewpoints behind. What we need is to have hearings about the judges viewpoints in the Knesset before their approval. She also believes that we should be promoting Mishpat Ivri (translated as Hebrew law) as the basis for our system. (For those of you unaware, Israel does not have a Constitution, and its law system is loosely based. There is room for reforms, and Tzippy believes that our traditional systems should have an influence on our modern law system here in Israel.)
Gila Gamiliel: Gila approves the idea of raising the threshold to 10 Knesset seats. She also thinks that the Supreme Court does not represent everyone in Israel and needs much more diversity. She also mentioned that she went back to school to study law (her other degrees are not law related) so that she could better act as a Member of Knesset.
Yair Gabbai: Yair believes that the threshold should be raised to four or five seats – a minimum of 10 seats is too high. He believes the system for judicial appointments should be changed, and that in the current system the left wing extremists can use the system to bypass democracy.
Two questions dealt directly with Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria). One question was about annexing them to Israel, and one was about agreeing to freezing building in these areas if Netanyahu feels the need to do so.
Gila Gamliel: Gila is in favor of annexing all of Yehuda and Shomron, and is against freezing building in these areas.
Yair Gabbai: Yair is in favor of annexing all of Yehuda and Shomron but thinks that the Arab population should govern themselves. He is against freezing building in these areas.
Tzippy Hotobeli: Tzippy points out that the concept of annexation does not apply here – you do not need to annex land that already belongs to you! She proposes the alternative phrase of applying Israeli law to all of Yehuda and Shomron on a gradual basis, starting with area C and moving on from there. She is against freezing building, and was active in petitioning the Prime Minister against the last building freeze.
A question was posed about the future possible coaltion that may be formed after the elections, and whether or not Netanyahu should form a coalition with the center parties in order to please the world, or form a coalition with the right wing parties.
Yair Gabbai: Yair prefers that the future coaliton government be made with the Likud and the right wing parties, so that the government can effectively lead in one direction.
Gila Gamliel: Gila thinks that the next goverment should be made up of the right wing parties and that we should not worry about the outside world’s reaction.
Tzippy Hotobeli: Tzippy thinks that ideally the coalition should be made up of the right wing parties, but that realistically the other parties like Shas and Yesh Atid will be desparate to join the goverment and will be included. She thinks that it is important to make sure that there are as many right wing Knesset members as possible in the Likud in order to make sure the agenda for the next government is on the right track (my pun, not hers).
Each member was asked to describe the most important achievments in the past four years.
Gila Gamliel: Gila is proud of the fact that she promoted the program where those who have served in the IDF or have done national service receive one year of college free of charge (including in the University in Ariel).
Yair Gabbai: Yair is proud of his leading of the campaign against the evacuation of what is called Beit Yonatan, and the reducing of unfair tuition fees in schools.
Tzippy Hotobeli: Tzippy is proud of the legislation extending maternity leave in Israel to six months, and the promotion of the Edmund Levy report regarding Yehuda and Shomron.
Some themes mentioned throughout the evening that applied to all three candidates was the concept of accountability. All three have good records of accomplishments (personal note: this is not true for all Knesset Members and municipal workers – unfortunately some are party hacks and do not really serve the public after they are elected!). The feminist angle was not ignored, and Tzippy stated that there should be good, right wing women (emphasis on the plural!) in the Likud.
Kol haKavod to all of the participants! It was a real pleasure to hear an intelligent discussion of the issues, especially in English. A big thank you to both Danny Gottleib and Fred Moncharsh for organizing the event.