In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Heritage Minister Ze'ev Elkin referred to the political status of Ayelet Shaked, to the various unions in the Right-leaning parties, to the connection with Kahlon that did not win seats rather on the contrary, to the Russian vote and Avigdor Lieberman, and to Ehud Barak and the moral dilemmas that have come to be associated with his name.
At the beginning of the interview, Minister Elkin was asked why according to his understanding Shaked is not currently in the Likud. He comments on the technical aspect of her decision not to run in the primaries. He discusses the technical details of her decision not to run in the primaries, as did others such as Yoav Galant, who was elected to the top ten, even higher than himself, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who left his post as mayor, ran for, and was placed in the party leadership.
"The next time there'll be primaries, Ayelet Shaked will be able to run and I think that's what she'll do," says Elkin, who emphasizes that although he has no clear and definite knowledge of Shaked's intentions, it is clear that "she wanted to get to the Likud because this is the playing-field where the real decisions are made for where Israel's headed. Therefore any politician who wants to really influence and be at a decisive juncture understands that the Likud is the one to influence the process in a big way. Ayelet understood that."
Minister Elkin notes that the option to save Shaked a place in the Likud list does not exist, since Netanyahu gave up this right in the next elections and so from a legal point of view, the possibility automatically fell off the agenda.
Netanyahu's waiving the right to save places stems from an agreement with the Kulanu Party. We asked Minister Elkin about where the party that was supposed to add four seats to the Likud disappeared to, and instead the party dropped from 35 seats to 30 in the polls. Did Kahlon turn out to be a mistaken purchase a moment before it became clear that his tenure as Finance Minister was not so successful?
"It's not a matter of successful or not. We knew we'd pay a price for this connection. If Kahlon was running alone, the votes would have been wasted below the threshold, so every Likud member gave up his place so there wouldn't be a waste in the bloc. What we asked of our partners on the Right we condemned ourselves to and we paid the price."
Or was it correct for Netanyahu to act to unite Kahlon and Bennett, thereby not reducing his party's seats? Elkin believes that such a union between Bennett and Kahlon could not have been implemented, since Bennett's party has a certain religious bent, whereas Kahlon does not represent any such coloration. "Kahlon wouldn't have agreed to be the Number Two or Three after Bennett and Shaked, so there was no choice and the only way was through the Likud and we paid the price knowingly. There are those who won't be in the Knesset and there are those who'll move back like me."
Minister Elkin was also asked about his opinion on the best and most correct outline for the Right-leaning camp, whether the parties to the right of the Likud are united into one or two parties, and he replies: "I don't know, this isn't my job. No one's left outside, including Feiglin and Otzma. If everyone goes in, two parties will definitely pass the threshold, but that's on condition that no one's left outside."
In his talk, Minister Elkin rejected the statement that according to surveys, without Liberman there will be no government. Elkin prefers not to see the polls as a future predictive force, and reminds us that according to Blue and White's polls, they were supposed to form the next government. Nevertheless, we asked whether it was not right to label Liberman Left and a great element in the current election campaign. It is possible after all that the day after the elections, the Likud and Yisrael Beyteinu will have to sit together.
"It's not a matter of how to label Liberman. It's a matter of the decisions he made. He says openly that he won't be part of a narrow Rightist government and won't sit with the haredim. He wants only a unity government and insists that some of the parties in the national camp remain outside, and he also says Gantz can be Prime Minister if he gets more seats. So it's critical that the Likud get more seats because Liberman built himself an excuse to recommend Gantz if Gantz wins more seats.
"I suggest that everyone listen to what Liberman is saying: People have been wrong about this several times and say he doesn't mean it and I argued at all stages of the negotiations that there's a high probability that a government won't be formed. I said listen to Liberman and see that it could be. He says clearly: if Blue and White gets more seats they should be the ones to form a government. Anyone who looks at the polls sees that the Left bloc with Liberman is more than sixty seats, so the number of Knesset seats is critical."
As part of the struggle against Liberman, the Likud is focusing the campaign on the Russian vote, and Minister Elkin is supposed to be a significant part of this campaign. However, when asked what his party intends to say to the Russian immigrants, Elkin makes it clear that his appeal to this audience does not come specifically for the elections, but that "I've been working with them since I was in politics, in legislation for this sector. In all the polls I've seen in recent years, I saw that I was in first place," says Elkin, adding that in the surveys conducted by the Russian press to examine the status of Russian-speaking politicians in the Russian-speaking community, for some reason, Liberman's name was absent, perhaps under the pretext that Liberman was supposed to be in first place. In his opinion, the Russian press is concerned about an outcome that would put Liberman somewhere other than first place, and this would infuriate Liberman himself.
"We'll represent what we did and what we intend to do. Some of the promises made by Yisrael Beyteinu are empty promises that show a great distance between Liberman's promises and reality. In the end, most of the problems of the Russian-speaking community haven't been resolved. In addition, the majority of the Russian-speaking community is Center/Right, and therefore they must understand that according to Liberman himself, if we don't get enough seats, there'll be a Leftist government here."
Towards the end of the talk, Minister Elkin was asked how much his party's attack on Ehud Barak would be expected to deal with the issues of integrity that have come to be associated with his name. "The truth is that the Israeli public knows Barak, and his low number of mandates doesn't stem from some publication. Even when he stormed into the media, he was left with six mandates because he was the worst prime minister in Israel's history with the shortest term. He brought disaster upon us. He presented Arafat with a suicidal proposal to the extent that the Temple Mount was divided and brought us an intifada with hundreds of dead instead of peace. Public memory exists and this is the main reason why he doesn't receive support.
"The rest is foam on the surface of the water that shows hypocrisy in the media and on the Left, because they're campaigning at Netanyahu's expense on the basis of leaks. On the other hand, no one talks about Barak, nor about the details that Barak admits to himself, like a business partnership with Epstein, who invested great money in Barak's business after he was convicted of soliciting minors for prostitution. You cann't say 'I didn't know'. He was convicted, but Barak considered him a legitimate friend. The second thing is that even today, even though the Wexner Fund allowed him to tell what he received the money for, he refuses to do so. There are such heavy questions you'd expect Barak himself and his men and Leftists and the media to give weight to these facts."