For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Allon - 'Gradually apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria'
13 January '12..
(Quite an interview. Y.)
The name MK Zeev Elkin started making headlines only over the past several months. What began with a caricature continued on to radio and television programs. Until a year ago, he was unknown by the general public, although he has served in the Knesset for the past seven years.
The media’s interest in Elkin, which began only when he introduced the controversial boycott law, increased when he began, together with his fellow faction member, MK Yariv Levin, to advance a bill that obligates candidates for the Supreme Court to undergo a hearing in the Constitution and Law Committee. It accompanied criticism from Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and continued in a disagreement over the candidacy of Justice Noam Solberg.
When Netanyahu made him head of the coalition, many people in the Knesset raised an eyebrow. Some thought that the task was too big for someone who was a fairly plain member of Kadima’s faction until he began rebelling against Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni.
But Elkin is considered to have proven himself the best at his job. For three years, the opposition has not managed to get a single bill passed in the Knesset that the coalition opposed.
Wednesdays are his fighting days. Elkin usually arrives at the cafeteria to get the ministers out of their seats, even as they are chewing their schnitzel, and bring them to the plenum for votes.
Elkin says of himself, “I’m an odd character. I wear a skullcap, but I support civil unions and the Tzohar bill. I’m in favor of a new status quo on the Sabbath and I oppose the exclusion of women.”
In the past, he was considered an excellent chess player. “Chess enriched my life a great deal. Politics is like chess, but sometimes somebody knocks the board over and ruins all the pieces. I still play as a hobby.”
He was born in Kharkov, Ukraine to a non-observant Jewish family, became interested in Judaism, learned Hebrew on his own and increased his religious observance. Fairly quickly he became the secretary-general of B'nei Akiva in the Soviet Union. At the age of 17, he enrolled in university, where he studied mathematics and physics. In 1990, at the age of 19, he immigrated to Israel with his daughter, who is now a soldier.
In Israel he studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion and at the Hebrew University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the views of Rabbi Saadia Gaon. He lives in Kfar Eldad in the Etzion bloc.
Q. This week, it was said that you passed information to far-right activists who were tracking IDF troops.
“I didn’t leak classified information. The information that I passed was not to extremist settlers but to leaders of the communities in Judea and Samaria, and it was done with government permission. The report caused me a lot of damage among the public. One newspaper gave it prominence because he has a score to settle with me because of bills I promote that have to do with the courts. They published distorted information. Some of the media repeated it without speaking to me at all. Channel 2 got a comment from me – and didn’t broadcast it.
“The incident has made an enthusiastic supporter of the bill that would increase fines for libel because [the newspaper] Haaretz and, after it, the other media broke all the rules that would become law under the bill, including the obligation to get a response.”
Q. In 2006, you said, “The government’s main job should be determining Israel’s borders, and Olmert is the right man for it. On the other hand, I don’t believe that Netanyahu is capable of doing it even if he should be elected prime minister.”
“After Olmert was elected, he veered to the left. The gap between Kadima’s platform and what Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas is like the distance between east and west. Livni veered leftward even more sharply. My goal was to make sure that as much as possible of Judea and Samaria’s territory would remain in our hands.”
Q. Do you currently oppose the prime minister’s initiative regarding the two-state solution?
“Absolutely. I don’t see it as a solution. I have a disagreement with Netanyahu over that. I want to keep Judea and Samaria for ideological reasons. But somebody who is coming from a security perspective will also see that the two-state idea doesn’t work.”
Q. If that’s true, then what is the solution? Shall we be at war forever?
“If we go with the two-state solution, we certainly will stay at war, just like what’s been happening since the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Gush Katif [in Gaza]. In the meantime, we’ve seen that painful concessions lead to war. Imagine where we’d be if we had withdrawn from the Golan Heights and what’s happening to Assad now had happened then. We would have no Golan Heights and no peace.”
Q. What solution do you propose?
“As long as the region doesn’t accept our existence, our security situation will be complicated. For 20 years, we tried making concessions, and where did that get us? The bigger the concession, the greater the pressure to make more concessions. The security situation in Israel before the Oslo Accords was 1,000 times better than it is today.”
Q. Are you also opposed to the evacuation of illegal outposts?
“What illegal outposts? The state sent people to settle those places and invested money there. It didn’t tell them that it was problematic. Now they’re going to evacuate them? If so, why not demolish the Holyland project in Jerusalem, too? Would anyone ever imagine tearing down the buildings? When the state makes a mistake, its job is to find a solution.”
Q. Do you also support applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements in Judea and Samaria?
“I think that we have to apply Israeli sovereignty gradually to settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. In the first stage, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the Jordan Valley and so on.”
Q. Would the world accept such an act?
“It would be tough at first, but look where we are today. The Palestinians hold the entire Gaza Strip and most of the territory in Judea and Samaria. What sort of progress have we made? None – because all the time, we gave without getting anything in return. If we hadn’t just given but received as well, today we would be reducing the disagreement. Their appetite has only gotten bigger. Arafat was ready to accept Abu Dis as the capital of Palestine. Today, Abbas wants Jerusalem as a capital.”
“Netanyahu is under a lot of restrctions”
Q. Is the prime minister pleased with the very hawkish line that you take and with the bills that you introduce?
“I have a very close relationship with Netanyahu. There is a lot of trust between us. There are disagreements, too. We are different people with different backgrounds. But we have learned to solve disagreements with mutual respect, and we work harmoniously. He gives me the space to express myself and also to introduce bills. He supported quite a few of my bills and backed me up when the entire press thought that he would stop my bill, but he surprised them by supporting it. Also, I don’t believe that I love the land of Israel more than he does. He is clearly a land of Israel man, but he is under a lot of restrictions, and I’m not aware of all of them. I respect that. Still, I think that as someone who shares a very clear political line in the Likud, I have the right to balance the general line in the international arena as well. The Likud can’t change its positions by 180 degrees just because Obama wants it to.”
Q. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate, in terms of your views, to join Yisrael Beiteinu or the National Union?
“All the right-wing factions are fairly close. You ask me this question only because of my Russian origins. If I weren’t a Russian-speaker, nobody would say that, and nobody would try to put me together with Lieberman. I have a very good relationship with Lieberman, even though it wasn’t always like that.”
Q. Do you think that elections will be moved up?
“The power of prophecy was given to fools, and certainly to Israeli politics. I don’t see elections on the horizon because I don’t see a majority in the Knesset that wants elections. Anybody who interprets Netanyahu’s act to move up the party primary as being intended to move up the elections doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“I spend many hours with the prime minister, so I know that he went to the party primary because he didn’t see a majority for moving up the elections. Still, in politics everything can change. Could I swear that we’ll reach the planned election date? No, I couldn’t. Right now, there’s stability in the coalition, but not everything depends on us. It also depends on our coalition partners. To this day they’ve shown that they can do teamwork.”
“Only in India”
Q. Will Lapid’s decision to establish a new party affect the political system?
“It’s already affecting it in the sense that it’s causing a lot of ferment in Kadima. Lapid’s party is killing Kadima and stopping the Labor Party from growing. If Lapid had checked the lay of the land well, he might not have been in such a hurry to announce his entry into politics.”
Q. Isn’t Lapid’s party a threat to the Likud as well?
“Any new party that enters the arena in the niche of a centrist party could take votes from the Likud too. It is conceivable that many disaffected Kadima voters would vote for the Likud if Lapid weren’t running. As far as I’m concerned, we should welcome anyone who wants to have an influence. As someone who left academic life to go into politics, I can appreciate that.”
Q. Why are you so critical of the Supreme Court? Only recently, you criticized [Supreme Court] President Beinisch. Didn’t you go too far?
“I think that she went too far, and I wasn’t the only one who said so. Beinisch’s leanings against the Knesset as an institution were scandalous and unprecedented. Until Beinisch made that statement, I never made a single statement against a Supreme Court judge. In Beinisch’s case, I responded firmly because she crossed a red line. Rivlin also thought the way I did.”
Q. Does your criticism of the Supreme Court stem mainly from its judicial activism?
“Absolutely. We are a country without a constitution, and several basic laws that we legislated were passed with a tiny majority. So they weren’t given special status. When the court took these laws, treated them like a kind of constitution and began to interfere in our legislation and repeal laws, that caused a problem.
“The former president of the Supreme Court, Moshe Landau, warned during his time that this would lead to a collision between the Supreme Court and the Knesset. The Knesset never made a specific decision giving the Supreme Court the authority to repeal laws. The basic law concerning legislation has not been drafted yet. I have no problem with the idea that the court can repeal laws that the Knesset legislates, but it should be done properly.”
Q. Do you also criticize the Supreme Court judges for being too left-wing?
“I never made that claim. I care about the judge’s judicial world view. The former president of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, succeeded in cloning the Supreme Court. I want there to be a broader reflection of the public’s views in the judicial system.”
Q. And your solution is to require candidates for the Supreme Court to undergo a hearing in front of politicians in the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee?
“That’s not such a bizarre idea. It’s done throughout the western world. If you look, you’ll find that the U.S. isn’t the only country to hold public hearings, but in almost every western country, the ones who appoint judges to the Supreme Court are politicians. That’s how it works all over the world. A method like ours works only in India.”
“The government’s hands are tied”
Q. Do you also think that the High Court of Justice is too occupied with making political and social decisions?
“There are many examples of that – for example, on the issue of the security fence. The perception was that the fence would determine the country’s future border, and after the High Court of Justice intervened, the fence was moved. It’s not a legal matter but rather a political and security decision. When we’re talking about setting the country’s borders, the government’s hands are tied because the decision was given to the High Court of Justice to make.”
Q. Was the decision by the Judicial Selection Committee to add Noam Solberg to the High Court of Justice a result of your struggle and that of your colleagues in the Likud?
“It was a balanced decision. I’m not happy with all the appointments, but in the end, as far as we were concerned, it was a victory because a symbolic attempt was made to disqualify a judge because he was of a different color. The fact that Solberg was appointed conveys a message that a judge may be a resident of Judea and Samaria. I am certain that the committee’s decision was influenced by the legislative initiative in the Knesset and the persistence of the members.”
Q. Are you concerned about the incident in which MK Anastasia Michaeli threw water on MK Raleb Majadele?
“I don’t know whether that’s a new record. It was wrong and a terrible mistake that hurts all of us, and Anastasia and her party first of all. It was completely uncalled for. But I sense a bit of imbalance over the fact that when MK Hanin Zoabi of the National Democratic Assembly shoved an usher in the plenum, she was suspended only for a single day. I think that shoving a Knesset usher is just as bad as throwing water, so I would have expected balance.”
Q. How do you explain the fact that the opposition has not managed to pass a single law that the coalition opposed?
“I was a rebel Knesset member during the last term, so I know all the rebel tricks. I know how a coalition can make itself disintegrate. We blocked that possibility. We also knew how to deal with Knesset members from the Labor Party who acted against coalition decisions. Even though this coalition has a lot of contradictions, despite all the tensions in Israeli politics, we learned to work together to solve problems before they reached the media.”
Q. Does this success stem from the opposition’s weakness?
“Yes. They make mistakes. There’s a mess in Kadima. It’s a party in disguise of Likudniks who masquerade as leftists. These people’s DNA is the opposite of what Livni is trying to convey.”
Q. What position do you want most?
“On my first day in the Knesset, a reporter asked me and seven other new Knesset members who would like to be prime minister one day. I was the only one who raised my hand. That hasn’t changed. But that goal is not on the visible horizon.
“Of course, I would like to be in the next Knesset in an influential position in the government, but not any position. I don’t want to be a minister without portfolio. If that’s what I’m offered, I’ll stay where I am. I’ll have just as much influence as the ministers and get just as much exposure, but my political goal over the next 10 years is to be minister of education.”
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"