Daily Israel Report

Rivlin's Likud Replacement is 'Less Interested in Judea Samaria'

Former MK Shama will take Rivlin's place in Coalition after presidential victory; 'not comfortable with Likud position.'
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 6/10/2014, 6:32 PM

Carmel Shama
Carmel Shama
Flash 90

Given former Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin's (Likud) election as president of Israel on Tuesday, his spot in the Coalition will be taken by former MK Carmel Shama (Likud).

Following the announcement of the presidential election results, which Rivlin took 63-53 against MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) in the second round of voting, Shama said Tuesday "I don't feel comfortable with the position that the Likud has taken."

"Rather than every hill in Judea and Samaria, I'm more interested in the price of housing and the weaker (economic) layers," Shama added.

Many have argued that the lack of development and constant construction freezes in Judea and Samaria, which remains over 90% un-populated, are directly contributing towards the housing crisis by largely limiting housing to the coastal region, which houses around 70% of Israel's population.

Shama's return to the Knesset was initially somewhat unclear; the former MK told Yedioth Aharonoth earlier on Tuesday "I need to sleep on it another night. The transition here is fast and sharp, but we are ready for the mission."

"I welcome Reuven Rivlin's victory; he has an additional task to the other traditional roles of the president: to rehabilitate everything that got stuck in the election process," said Shama, referencing the dirty campaign for president.

The former MK served under the Likud from 2009 to 2013, holding the post of Economics Committee Chairman and Deputy Knesset Chairman. In the last elections he missed out of the Coalition by being placed 32 on the joint Likud-Beytenu list. Since then, he ran for the position of mayor of Ramat Gan, but lost out and has been serving as the Opposition chairman in the coastal city ever since.

Writing on Facebook on Monday ahead of the presidential elections, Shamah wrote "if I will decide to return to the Knesset, it will be with very mixed emotions; on the one hand a return of the ability to influence on the national scale, on the other a postponement of my mission for the municipality." He added that he felt the Ramat Gan mayor was hoping for Rivlin's victory more than he was.

In 2012, Shama famously found himself seated right by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil during the Earth Summit.

Shama was unimpressed. “From up close, he looks more like a man who would sell roasted sunflower seeds than the leader of a nuclear program,” he said, adding, “Maybe that’s the danger.” 

Shama was employing a pun on the Hebrew words for "sunflower seeds" (garinim) and "nuclear" (garini), which are almost identical.