Elkin: I did not leave Likud to be a minister in a Netanyahu government

Former Likud member and New Hope leader Zeev Elkin says he loves the Likud, but Netanyahu left him no choice but to leave.

Nitzan Keidar ,

Zeev Elkin
Zeev Elkin
צילום: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Former Minister Zeev Elkin, a senior member of Gideon Saar's New Hope party, is one of the most infamous people in the political system since he left the Likud. The attacks against him come mainly from Likud members and the prime minister's entourage.

"Everyone understands that I took a step that has no political logic," he told Arutz Sheva. "I am going on a new path in politics that involves great risks and even if it succeeds once, no one guarantees that it will succeed the second time."

"Binyamin Netanyahu knows the truth well, how I stood up to Olmert and how I prevented Tzipi Livni from becoming prime minister. I had no doubt that when I took this step, they would throw mud at me, because that is part of the Likud's style today."

According to him, the Likud's conduct in recent days is the reason for his departure. "Today Netanyahu is rolling out for me the position of 'Minister of Water' but he forgets to say that the one who created this position is him. I could be the Minister of Energy today and he called me and asked me to help him build a creative solution for Yuval Steinitz. The only thing that made me hesitate was parting from the Likud, a movement I love so much. I'm in politics to do what I believe in and I currently think that Netanyahu's continued tenure will endanger us because when a leader makes decisions for personal reasons it is dangerous."

Elkin stated that his critics have forgotten history. "I was told that [Likudniks] don't leave, but they forgot that Yitzhak Shamir - when he was not happy with what was done in the Likud in 1999 - the Likud's great leader supported the National Union. If the former prime minister and chairman of the Likud thought that when push came to shove, he could leave, it could be a worthy model and Shamir was an example to me in many things over the years."

He also has an answer to the claim that if it had not been for Sa'ar's move, he would still have been a Likud member alongside Netanyahu. "I guess if we had gone to the polls and there was no Gideon Sa'ar and I would have given up on the possibility of changing from within I might have just resigned from politics. The balance with the candidate is the right one for the benefit of the State of Israel."

"For me it was a very difficult process to mature and understand. I admired and I still admire Binyamin Netanyahu for his talents and achievements. He is a special person. I have accompanied him for more than a decade. Watching what is happening to him is tragic. It takes time to understand that this is not an isolated case. It is getting worse and there seems to be no going back. The Likud is also a movement that I really like it and its activists, with which I feel an ideological partnership. Getting up and leaving such a home is very difficult and can only happen if there is a real rift.

"In the last year, I went through a process that began with our going to the third election, which could have been prevented, and unfortunately Netanyahu did not do that. I almost convinced him, but then he went to Balfour and things turned upside down. This year, time and time again, both at various junctions of decision-making and in the atmosphere within the faction of very blatant and flattering discourse, I felt it was not the Likud I knew. The Likud has always allowed for pluralism with criticism and internal debate.

"Netanyahu brought something that completely overthrew Likud democracy and the whole conversation changed. In the end when it comes to elections you have to be honest with yourself. I watched Netanyahu make decisions and time and time again personal considerations prevailed over national considerations. You ask yourself if you can rest assured that perhaps for personal consideration he will decide in the next term to make a withdrawal [like the Disengagement from Gaza]. I realized that this situation leaves me no choice but to either leave completely or try to fix it," Elkin added.

He stated that his party does not intend to be a second fiddle to Likud. "I did not leave Netanyahu so that I would eventually be a minister in his government again. For that I could stay in the Likud. My spot was guaranteed and politically everyone tells me I did a crazy thing because I could have had another 20 years ahead of me in the Likud."

"I believe there will be no more elections and we will know how to form a government. We bring a candidate who will not fall in the face of Netanyahu and he has proved it through many trials. He says without any confusion or fear that he is against a Palestinian state and in favor of legal reforms. Gideon is one of the best parliamentarians in the Knesset of Israel and I saw him as an education minister who carried out reforms and was very attentive to the needs of religious Zionism. With his political abilities, I believe he will be able to form a very broad Knesset coaliton around him."