ElkinHezki Baruch

Sources close to the Prime Minister promise to approve construction in north Jerusalem if Betzalel Smotrich and Hagit Moshe reach an agreement on a joint run that would significantly increase the chances of religious Zionism to pass the electoral threshold.

Former Minister Ze'ev Elkin, a senior member of Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope Party, sharply attacked the move and defined it as "total madness." According to him, with this promise, Netanyahu is focusing on a comprehensive unification on the Right, that is, not only of Smotrich and Hagit Moshe, but also of Otzmah Yehudit.

"Look where we've arrived. It's impossible. After all, construction in the north of Jerusalem is a critical need of the State of Israel. As Minister of Jerusalem, I fought for construction plans and the Prime Minister always explained that there's the problem of the American government. And suddenly we see that the national need for construction in Jerusalem becomes passing currency in the political discourse.

"And if Smotrich decides not to join Ben Gvir, then Netanyahu won't not approve building? Where did we get to? If it's possible to build, then one has to build immediately. To turn it into a lever of pressure for parties to unite or not? Think about where we're going. It's taking all the most critical things nationally and turning them into apolitical tool."

Is it not natural for a prime minister who seeks to form a political majority to behave in this way? Is it unlikely that he will make statements outlining a path to the next coalition? "There's a limit. That's exactly why I left. I could stay in the Likud and be elected there. I took personal risks because I saw that today's Netanyahu is not the Netanyahu of yesteryear. All the red lines have been crossed and things that were sacred and above politics today are not just politics but for personal needs...it's impossible.

"This is how the economy becomes hostage, this is why elections are held every six months, and this is how construction in Jerusalem becomes a tool of political pressure. Does that sound normal? And what will they say tomorrow? That action in Syria or Iran will only take place if someone joins the coalition? There's a limit. To me, building in Jerusalem is not something you play with.

"My demand from Netanyahu is very simple: if he knows how to give up construction in Jerusalem in exchange for some political closure then he should allow construction in Jerusalem today," Elkin says and we ask if he knows the political reality closely, he knows of a real problem that justifies delaying construction in Atarot.

"I always thought that construction in Jerusalem should be outside the world of international pressures. I was in favor of construction on Givat Hamatos, even though I angered the Prime Minister, and I resolutely support construction in Atarot. As Minister of Jerusalem, I know how critical this is. It hurts me that the issue not only hinders, but becomes a political playing card."

From here we asked Elkin about the complex political reality in the face of Netanyahu's boycott: a simple count of seats suggests that you will have no choice but to join Yair Lapid, and since Lapid is currently the leader, it can be assumed that he will also be prime minister with your help. Is there another scenario?"

Elkin rejects the scenario outright and says: "Lapid cannot form a government and everyone understands that. It's been tested a thousand times already. In the end we will also be bigger than him and this is what our internal surveys show.

"Obviously we'e presenting an alternative here that's the only one, because Bennett says he wants to replace Netanyahu but says that if it doesn't work out, he's willing to sit under him. This creates a situation in which a vote for Bennett is a vote for Netanyahu," says Elkin, who does not accept the argument that Bennett is careful not to boycott anyone: "This isn't a matter of boycott. Whether I am an alternative or not. It is impossible to say that Netanyahu runs the country in a terrible way and a minute later he can say that he is ready to sit as a minister in his government. It does not work that way.

"It is allowed in politics to be in opposition. That is why we say very clearly that we are posing a governmental alternative to Netanyahu and from within the Right-leaning camp.

"In every parameter Sa'ar is to the Right of Netanyahu. He was the chairman of Sharon's coalition and yet he mustered the courage and strength to vote against the disengagement despite the pressure exerted on him, his clear stance against a Palestinian state, support for settlement, sovereignty, changes in the judiciary. We have a candidate from the national camp who presents another alternative."

Elkin adds that he "very much appreciates Netanyahu for his achievements and he deserves a lot of thanks for that, but even the most experienced leaders, when the personal and the national mix so much, as we have seen in the Jerusalem case, a leader can not make the right decisions."

We also asked for former Minister Elkin's reference to the plank in his party's platform promising to legalize cannabis within a year. "There is a plan that was promoted during this term. It's not something new. It is about ending criminal liability for use that has made many people into criminals. Prohibition of use until age 21 and strict enforcement and allocation of anti-drug budgets among youth, which has become a national scourge.

"We think this very path, as has been proven in quite a few countries, pulls the carpet from under the black market, and on the other hand, strict adherence to preventing selling to teenagers, along with a serious information program is what is most correct in this context," says Elkin and we ask if this is the reality in light of the testimonies of rehab experts from Israel and abroad about severe social harm of legalization, a black market that is only gaining momentum and flourishing, drivers on the road causing a dangerous situation, soldiers guarding the borders inebriated, it will not stop at the age of 21 and youth will come to school without the ability to communicate and other serious phenomena.

"Unfortunately this is exactly the reality that already exists today when there is no legalization and the experts I have heard say in the countries that carried out the regulation process it has changed."

According to him, all the societal ills in question currently exist in the State of Israel. "Precisely the experience of the countries that have gone in the direction of legalization has shown that on the one hand you remove the issue of criminal responsibility in cases that are irrelevant, and everyone also understands that if there's no enforcement and they decide on laws they don't enforce, it conveys that everything's allowed, and on the other hand enforce and allocate resources for enforcement and advocacy among youth.

"I believe it's much more effective. Admittedly, the current path is not successful. We are getting into a very problematic situation precisely among the youth and it is worth rethinking and out of the box. I am in favor of considering everything seriously."