Shaul Mofaz to Haaretz: I Will Lead Israel's Social Protest This Summer

New opposition leader says party will represent sane, liberal public.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Shaul Mofaz, who was voted as Kadima's new chairman in Tuesday's election, says he will be at the helm of the next social protest, which he believes will break out again this summer and will focus on the issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the army.

The social protest, he told Haaretz in a telephone interview on Wednesday, will center primarily on the "unequal bearing of the burden" - in other words the fact that Haredim aren't drafted.

Newly elected Kadima head Shaul Mofaz visiting the Western Wall on March 28, 2012.Credit: AFP

"I opposed the Tal Law in its time and I will lead this protest," he said, referring to legislation that had set the terms for Haredi draft exemptions but was struck down by the High Court of Justice last month.

"I will represent the sane, democratic and liberal public. Most people will see me and the new Kadima as an address," he said. "The protest hasn't totally died down. It is still bubbling."

On only a few hours' sleep, Mofaz came to Jerusalem on Wednesday for the usual routine - a wreath on the grave of Theodor Herzl, a note in the Western Wall, a meeting with the wall's Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, and back to Tel Aviv.

A meeting was scheduled for Mofaz early next week with President Shimon Peres. After all, he will soon be the leader of the parliamentary opposition in the State of Israel, and duty calls.

From now on, all heads of state and foreign ministers who will visit here will be meeting with him as well. At this very moment, foreign diplomats in Israel are busily preparing dossiers on Mofaz to submit to their countries' leaders.

He will receive enhanced security, an armored limousine, a spacious office and an expanded staff. He won't be leaving the chairmanship of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee so fast, though. He has an important - and classified - matter to wrap up there first.

Mofaz has been in politics for 10 years, most of it as transportation minister and defense minister, first in the Likud and then in Kadima. Much of the public regards him negatively. They see him as a right-wing general, devoid of ideology, inconsistent and power hungry.

"The public will have to get to know me," he said. "It's a matter of time. When the public gets to know me, they will learn to accept me."

Mofaz knows exactly what he will be doing during each of the upcoming weeks and months. His team has prepared a plan for his first 100 days at the party's helm.

Mofaz has expressed his position on the Iranian nuclear threat plenty of times. Now, as Kadima chairman and the head of the opposition, it will resonate much further.

"[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is politically manipulating the Iranian issue," Mofaz said. "It's an existential threat, but the Americans are the ones who have to lead this campaign. The military option is the last resort, and it is still distant. We must retain that option, but the Americans must lead."

He will soon be meeting with Netanyahu for the routine update the prime minister gives the opposition leader.

"I won't suggest setting an agreed-upon date for elections at that meeting," said Mofaz. "The timing of elections is a bit too complicated to sum up in one meeting."

He will do a great deal to make sure defeated party chairwoman Tzipi Livni remains in Kadima, he said. He recognizes her electoral value. If she wanted the No. 2 spot on the Knesset list reserved for her, as she had reserved it for him, he would be pleased. If she has any other requests he would weigh them favorably. But, as he said on Wednesday, "Everyone is replaceable."

The full interview with Mofaz will appear in Friday's Week's End.

Read this article in Hebrew



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