The Jewish Home party surprised Israelis on Monday evening by announcing that former Israeli soccer superstar Eli Ohana had joined the party.
Ohana, 50, played with the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team for many years and also with several European teams. He is currently the manager of the Israel national under-19 soccer team.
He is expected to be reserved in the number 10 spot on the Jewish Home’s list for the Knesset.
Ohana’s joining the Jewish Home raised some eyebrows, given his past public statements. Ohana has in the past expressed support for the Disengagement from Gaza and spoke out in favor of expelling Jews from their homes.
In 2003, in an interview with the Ma’ariv newspaper, Ohana said, "[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon can evacuate all the settlements as far as I’m concerned, we have enough land in which to live...only a donkey doesn’t change his mind, the Palestinians want peace."
Two years later, shortly before the Disengagement, Ohana told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, "I’m in favor of anything that will bring tranquility and peace, even if it involves a disengagement."
In the same interview, the soccer superstar also revealed then that he considered joining the Kadima party to show support for Sharon, whom he said he was "perhaps the best prime minister there ever was. He made a lot of moves that contradict what he used to think, but he changed with reality, changed his views, and his moves have proven themselves.”
These comments caused an uproar on Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett’s Facebook page on Monday evening, with several users posting on Bennett's wall their objections to Ohana’s joining the party.
The Jewish Home would not comment on Ohana’s past remarks, but he himself explained on Monday evening that he had woken up to reality.
“All my life I was a Likud voter - but I no longer believe in the way of withdrawals, and like all of Israel - I woke up and came home, to the Jewish home. I love the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel. I will invest all my energy in promoting those who came, like me, from poor families, with eight brothers, so they will never have to live such lives again,” he said.