Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Tuesday evening she is completely confident Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head the next government formed after the April 9 election.
“And my hope is that he will keep the same coalition,” she said. Shaked, who recently co-founded a new right-wing party called Hayamin Hehadash, was speaking to a gathering of several hundred English-speakers in Tel Aviv. The event was organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon in partnership with the Times of Israel and the Israel office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Shaked said her party – whose name, she acknowledged, “doesn’t sound good in English” but means The New Right – would not sit in a government with Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff considered to be Netanyahu’s main challenger. Gantz heads a new centrist party called Hosen L’Yisrael.
“First of all, it’s a left-wing party,” Shaked said. “Although they have people with them from the right, they want to establish a coalition bloc with the left.”
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The justice minister said she didn’t think Gantz was qualified to serve as a national leader. “In order to be prime minister, you need a bit of experience in political life,” Shaked said.
“To maintain a coalition is a hard job. To juggle between Trump and Putin is a hard job. I don’t think he’s ready for this tough job. He needs to be more modest. If he wants to enter political life, he should first serve as a minister.”
Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett left Habayit Hayehudi to form their new party in December. The reason for the move, she said, was that Habayit Hayehudi was too Orthodox for them.
Their new party, which according to recent polls is expected to win between 8 and 10 (out of 120) seats in the Knesset, has been making an effort to appeal to non-religious, right-wing voters.
Shaked told the audience that she and Bennett (who served as chair of Habayit Hayehudi) were concerned that the U.S. administration would present its proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan sometime in April, right after the election, in an attempt to pressure Netanyahu into bringing more moderate parties into his coalition.
“That’s why it’s important for us that our party to be the biggest in the Likud coalition,” she said.
Shaked and Bennett are opposed to the two-state solution, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Instead, they have proposed that Israel annex Area C – the sections of the West Bank where all the Israeli settlements are located. About 400,000 Israelis live in Area C, as do an estimated 100,000 Palestinians. Bennett and Shaked have proposed granting these Palestinians Israeli citizenship.
When asked how she would feel if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decides to indict Netanyahu before the election in one or more corruption cases he is investigating, Shaked responded: “I know the AG very well. Our offices are next to each other. I very much appreciate him and respect his judgment. I don’t want to intervene with his decisions. I can sleep well at night when I know he’s the one who will take this important decision. “