MK Bezalel Smotrich
MK Bezalel Smotrich Sariya Diamant

Speaking at Bnei Akiva’s third national conference on education, held in Jerusalem on Sunday, Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich discussed his refusal to form a government together with the United Arab List, headed by MK Mansour Abbas, along with the recently passed state budget and its effect on the haredi community.

“We formulated our opposition after investing tens of thousands of shekels in translating materials from Arabic into Hebrew,” Smotrich related. “We also consulted with at least four experts. Netanyahu did not discuss this with me,” he added. “I made it clear that it would make no difference if he did.”

Smotrich noted that, “There was a tremendous amount of pressure on us, and it’s quite accurate to say that we held up against it with absolute determination. I’m delighted that at this point, the right wing is forming a united front on this issue – for all of us, it’s a red line; there’s nothing to discuss.”

He described how, “Abbas’ narrative is a narrative that refers to 1948 [i.e. all of Israel], not to Judea and Samaria. The Arabs have been trying to undermine our faith in the righteousness of the path taken by the Zionist enterprise, and the easiest way for them to silence us is to accuse us of being racists.

“As Transportation Minister,” he added, “I gave the Arabs more in eleven months than [the previous Minister] Yisrael Katz gave them in ten years. I distinguished between those who accept the existence of the State of Israel, and those who still aren’t prepared to do so. What Abbas is doing now is converting Jihad [as war] into a civil form of Jihad. He has one way of talking to Jews in Hebrew and another of talking to Arabs in Arabic. So what we have here is a huge challenge in educational terms, convincing Jews of the righteousness of our path.”

Asked to comment on provisions in the recently passed state budget that are seen to disproportionately harm the haredi sector, Smotrich said, “The haredi community has been going through an amazing process, opening up to Israeli society in an exceptional way. There’s nothing like attacks to set this process back. They need to change at their own pace. It's a hard process to go through, and attacking them just encourages them to retreat to their ghettos. This budget is designed to benefit the ‘state of Tel Aviv.’ Its lack of proportion is absolutely blatant.”

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