Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (New Hope) is summarizing the first months of the new government and responding to attacks on him by right-wing leaders in the opposition.
Hendel, 46, grew up in religious Zionism and still follows some mitzvot such as the kashrut laws, but is married to a secular woman (gynecologist Dr. Shiri Weinberg Hendel, the couple have four children) and lives in Moshav Nes Harim where religious people live alongside seculars.
In an interview with N12 magazine, he said, "When people tell me, 'The Disengagement is you,' I tell them that Netanyahu voted in favor of the Disengagement, and they answer, 'Come on...'. When they accuse 'you will release terrorists', I mention that Netanyahu is the one who released terrorists, not us. When Likud activists attack Benny Begin with curses and almost no one feels embarrassed by this group, it is blindness."
"I have nothing against the Likud public. I love them. They are my people. [However,] I am against Bibism. I would be very happy if the Likud were in the government. I believe in a unity government as an ideal, I aspired to it last time. I believe in the wholeness of the people and the country," added Hendel.
He clarified, "I have no problem sitting with Meretz and Labor. I have a problem with their opinions, I get angry sometimes. When Omer Barlev says something I really do not like, I express it out loud. But I cannot tell you that I felt better in the previous government. In my opinion, it is amazing that the left-wing parties come to the Golan Heights and vote in favor of developing the area. This is an event of historic proportions."
When reminded that Tamar Zandberg does not agree with him on Israel’s right to the Golan Heights, Hendel replied, "And she still came to the cabinet meeting and voted in favor of a one-billion-shekel plan, the likes of which the settlement has never seen."
Asked how did Nitzan Horowitz, Merav Michaeli and Ibtisam Mara'ana become easier partners for him to work with than Bezalel Smotrich, Dudi Amsalem and Yuval Steinitz, he said, "I like Yuval Steinitz very much, but had difficulty working with others in the last government. Take Amsalem, for example, who calls me a 'model' as a way of mocking me. I really appreciated his strategic work as Cyber Minister, I really felt safer during that time. I guess he felt safer while he did what he did in the Jerusalem municipality and I chased after terrorists."
Hendel was asked what he thought when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett clashed with the opposition last week and told MK Orit Strook, "Get out of my sight".
"Orit Strook is a friend of mine, although we do not agree on issues of religion and state and the character of the state. The discourse in the Knesset is very bad: curses, insults, most of which are directed at the coalition and Bennett in particular. It would have been better to express oneself differently. But that does not change the fact that he is a successful Prime Minister," he said.
Hendel made clear that he believes in civil unions "but other solutions are also conceivable." He noted that "Matan Kahana's reform is very important in this context. I am ashamed to go to a place where I know that kashrut is a shady plan. And I am concerned about the conversion outline because I understand that without it there would be hundreds of thousands of Israelis who would be assumed to be Jews but are not Jews. If they marry my children then I am the one risking assimilation and not them. It should be understood that the danger in the haredi monopoly on Judaism is a threat to the Jewish character of the State of Israel."