3 min read
Discussion on Israeli Coalition Politics with Mr. Amichai Chikli

For our first edition of our second year, Platform got a chance to sit down with a former Israeli Defense Forces commando and Yamina Member of Knesset (MK) Amichai Chikli. He was the first but not the last MK to decide to vote against the coalition and with the recent collapse of the coalition government, we asked him questions about his old party, the government's collapse and his plans for the future.

Platform: You were the first coalition MK to stand against the coalition government and a number of MKs followed in your footsteps and took a stand against the government. Did you make any efforts to encourage them to quit the government?

Amichai Chikli: Only in the cases where I saw it was their own intention to do it, I wasn't planning a revolt, or something sophisticated, house of cards style, that wasn’t the issue. It was my own decision, I couldn’t stay in the coalition, it would've been ethically and morally wrong for me. The one exception was Nir Orbach. Orbach said that he was against the government, he was tweeting stuff like "we should not abandon the Negev", so I told Orbach "if that's your ideology and perspective about the government, why not take a step and do something".

Platform: You were in Yamina during the last election campaign and later left, following the coalition agreement, can you share some of the reasons you decided to stand against the coalition and what was Bennett's initial response to your decision?

Amichai Chikli: So there are a few reasons why I resisted the government. The first reason is very basic, to tell the truth to people, at least as much as you can. It's true in politics, you can't always fulfill all your promises to the voters and sometimes you need to make compromises and that's obviously a normal thing. But I can’t recall a situation where a party said they won't sit with Meretz and they won’t sit with Ra’am, a party that they call the ‘sister movement of Hamas’ and then they sign the deal and the day after Bennet finishes his term, Lapid is Prime Minister and we’re sitting with Meretz and Ra’am, its insane. The second is Bennet’s will to become Prime Minister was so dominant and that’s the origin of the decision. It’s not like he was trying to do something for Am Yisroel [Hebrew for ‘Nation of Israel’] and you can see the moment he’s not Prime Minister, he disappeared. He’s looking for a job in the high tech market. That’s it for him, he achieved his goal of being Prime MInister, he was all about himself.

Platform: It's no secret that Israel has been going through many elections over the last few years and that many party heads that claim themselves to be on the right (Lieberman, Saar and Bennett) will not enter into an agreement with him. If he can't form a government in these upcoming elections, should Bibi step down?

Amichai Chikli: Look, I don’t see the questions of Bibi and his own political career as the main issue, I think we’re losing sight of it, the debate is so shallow. We have huge, huge challenges in the Galil [the Galilee], the Negev, in Area C [of the West Bank], with Iran, and issues with public transportation and traffic jams, climate change, agriculture, and economy. So having the issue of with Bibi or without Bibi, as the main issue of the elections is insane. Now, I think when it comes to the right-wing parties, he is the person to lead the camp. He has the experience, major achievements in foreign affairs, in security, in economy and there is no competition and I don’t care about the ego problems of Gidon Saar or Avigdor Lieberman and the fact that the left would rather sit with the Joint List, shows how bad the ego problem is. Ayman Odeh [the head of the Joint List] told Arab policemen to “throw away your weapons” and in the middle of Guardians of the Walls [the 2021 IDF military operation in Gaza] he said, “we will raise the flag of Palestine on the walls of Jerusalem.” So they’re willing to sit with Aymen Odeh, enemy of the State of Israel, but not sit with Bibi, it’s crazy.

Platform: Do you think it's possible Israeli leaders could look to a different method of breaking the political deadlock, such as changing the constitution or the political structure of the knesset? For example, changing the election of the prime minister to the one who gathers the most votes, but would still need to pass his policies through the elected legislature?

Amichai Chikli: I really think the ‘Bibi or not Bibi” tantrum is the reason for the election deadlock. It is a very rare situation. I think the left is in a huge ideological crisis because they have nothing to offer. So they put all their money on ‘only not Bibi’, it became a religion and we’re stuck with it and that's the situation.

Platform: There are rumors that the Likud will be giving you a high spot on their list, how likely is it that you will join the Likud? Is there any chance of you joining another party?

Amichai Chikli: Joining another party is not an option. So, it’s either a new party or the Likud and we have about 48-72 hours to make our final decision.

Platform: Aside from the Likud rumors, some have speculated you would consider opening your own party. Are there any truth to those allegations and if so, have you considered what your party might bring to Israeli politics?

Amichai Chikli: Look, I don't want to get into it at the moment, because it is more likely that I will join the Likud. Forming a new party is difficult, we saw that with Yamin Hachadash [The New Right] and I’m not certain that there is room for a new party, we should wait.

Platform: Obviously Bennett is no longer heading Yamina, Ayelet Shaked has taken over. As a former member of Yamina, do you think Yamina will pass the threshold in the upcoming elections? Could the leadership change and Shaked’s willingness to make an agreement with Bibi, improve their chances with right wing voters?

Amichai Chikli: Ruach Tzionit [Shaked’s new party] won’t pass the threshold, there are rules in the game. The moment you don’t pass the threshold in polls 4 or 5 times, week after week, it is unlikely you will be able to build enough support from the public to get the minimum mandate.

* The email will not be published on the website.