Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedMiriam Alster/Flash 90

Arutz Sheva spoke with former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on the ongoing negotiations for an emergency unity government. Multiple media reports, many of them contradictory, have surfaced in recent days, and once again the right-wing Yamina party views the prime minister with suspicion, with allegations that he is pushing them to the back of the line in coalition negotiations.

“There are currently no negotiations taking place between Likud and Yamina,” Shaked says. Although there are rumors that Likud plans to offer the Foreign Ministry portfolio to Yamina MK Naftali Bennett (currently Defense Minister), Shaked says that she is “very concerned at the tone of the reports. All we know is that there are intense negotiations taking place between Likud and Blue & White. From the reports, a picture is emerging of the unity government being one in which all the values that are important to Yamina and religious Zionism are sold out to the left.

“Other issues that we wanted to influence are being left in the hands of the haredim,” she adds, noting that, “during the election campaign, I said that if Shas receives more seats than us, we would not be able to claim the Religious Affairs Ministry, and that’s what happened. We’re seeing all the things that are important to us, such as the settlement issue, the judiciary, Bedouin settlement in the Negev, the Kaminitz Law, and more, being handed over to the left.”

Responding to rumors that Labor leaders Amir Peretz and Avi Nissenkorn will also join the unity government, Shaked states: “We did not enter politics to work for the [former] leaders of the Histadrut. The composition of the unity government should be far more balanced. Right now we [the right wing parties with the haredim] have 58 seats, and they [Blue & White] have only 17 or 19, depending on who you count in. And yet, the ideological slant that is becoming apparent is sharply to the left, if the media reports can be relied upon.

“When I took over the Justice Ministry,” Shaked adds, “I made big changes in the way the government related to the Supreme Court, especially in relation to Judea and Samaria. Previously, whenever the Supreme Court challenged the government’s position, the government would back down and agree to abandon [whatever piece of land the left-wingers were then claiming]. I changed all that, regulating the settlement issue – and that’s why, during my tenure, there wasn’t a single Supreme Court ruling ordering [Jews to be evicted from land they were living on]. But if control of the Justice Ministry goes back to the left wing, we know what will happen. They might blame it on the Court, but it could equally well be deliberate [in that the government will purposely capitulate to left-wing demands and not mount a serious protest to left-wing and Arab demands]. Left-wing groups never stop their petitioning of the Supreme Court, and they could cause immense damage to the settlement enterprise if the center-left is given control of the Justice and Defense Ministries.”

We ask her what she thinks of calls for Naftali Bennett to be retained as Defense Minister, despite the need to make political concessions. “Minister Bennett’s management of the current crisis inspires real admiration,” she says. “To me it seems that to remove him from his position now, at the height of the crisis, is extremely unwise, even irresponsible. He’s the one who set up the ‘coronavirus hotels,’ who’s putting pressure on the government to increase the number of tests for coronavirus, who’s coordinating enforcement of the shutdown with the army… It doesn’t make sense to replace him.”

Is that a personal opinion, we wonder, or a statement of a red line in coalition negotiations? “What I can say is that the prime minister pledged to the leaders of the right-wing bloc that he would conduct negotiations with them first. Instead, we see that he’s talking to Blue & White and not us, and the media is reporting all sorts of alarming and far-reaching concessions that Likud is considering, in order to reach an agreement.

“As far as I’m concerned, the prime minister has an obligation to fulfill his commitment to the right wing, to the parties who remained loyal to him throughout three election campaigns, in order to preserve the power of the right wing. This isn’t a time to capitulate to the left wing when we should be shoring up our own power.”

In the light of these sentiments, do Shaked and her fellow party members perhaps regret their insistence in remaining part of a right-wing bloc? “I very much hope that Netanyahu will keep his promises to the right wing, and to religious Zionism,” Shaked says.