‘I serve God,’ says new minister, vowing to get rid of Liberman

New Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich says that the most important goal is to create a new government without Liberman, who insists on the drafting of haredi men.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a wide-ranging interview on Kan 11 News Monday, incoming Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich of the Union of Right Wing Parties said that as a man of God, he does what he believes is good for the country and its citizens.

“I’m not the prime minister’s man, I’m a man of the people of Israel,” Smotrich said. “I’m a man of the public that I represent. I serve God and do what I believe and think is good for the State and the people of Israel.”

This includes trying to build a united and strong right-wing for the upcoming elections that does not include Yisrael Beitenu, whose leader began his campaign by attacking haredi parties and, in particular, insisting on the drafting of ultra-Orthodox young men into the IDF.

“The big challenge for the right wing in these elections is to manage to form a stable government without Avigdor Liberman,” the national-religious minister said. “Every person who will run to the right of the Likud and wants to run in the next Knesset must run under one party name.”

He confirmed that to that end, he is willing to set aside his leadership aspirations if it will bring popular former justice minister Ayelet Shaked into the fold.

“Unequivocally, I will give up every place [on the party list] and every role, because this unification is more important than anything else,” Smotrich said. “Our responsibility in this campaign is to prevent the very costly and dangerous loss of right-wing votes again. If it were not for the loss of votes, we would have had a wonderful right-wing government here.”

Shaked and Naftali Bennett broke off from the Jewish Home party before the last elections to form the New Right, which narrowly missed crossing the electoral threshold, leading to the loss of four seats in the Knesset that would have allowed the Likud to build a coalition.

Smotrich, whose new job includes a seat at the security cabinet, also repeated his hard-line views on how Israel should react to the terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip.

“My position is that at the end of the day, the only solution for Gaza that will finally bring peace, quiet and security to the residents of the South is to return to the Gaza Strip, take responsibility for it and re-establish the Gush Katif communities,” he said. “Until then, we only have tactical solutions — and there too we have to charge a more dramatic price.”