Highlights from the interview with Yamina MK Amichai Chikli:
- “The role of Prime Minister should reflect massive support. Yamina’s head, Naftali Bennett… only had around 200,000 votes, which is around 6% of the vote, far away from the minimum amount to claim the leadership of the nation.”
- “For the first time in fifteen years, Hezbollah took responsibility for firing missiles at civilian targets… there was no response from Israel. This week, Meretz… said that the edge of IDF military operations is less sharp and the ability of the government to take military steps is limited, since Meretz and Ra’am could topple the government. We have also seen other dangerous developments in the diplomatic realm… things are bad with the Americans right now.”
- “The Afghanistan disaster is tectonic. The implementation of the retreat was done in a careless manner which gave no thought to the visuals and the long-term effects. This was carried out in a manner that can only be described as amateur, and the damage is immense.”
- “Yair Lapid understands absolutely nothing about foreign policy. He has no academic education and has no relevant experience in related fields… His speech on antisemitism will be used in the future as a key tool in the hands of Holocaust deniers since he rejected the uniqueness of the occurrence.”
- “Today, the most popular thing is to go with the Progressive flow, based on ultra-superficial Marxist assumptions that the world is divided into the oppressors and the oppressed… There is no word to describe this ideology outside of idiotic.”
MK Chikli, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview. Please briefly introduce yourself to the readers.
I’m 40 years old, married with three kids, and I live in the Galilee in Kibbutz Hanaton in the North of Israel. I was born in Jerusalem after both of my parents made Aliyah from France. In the past decade, I’ve been leading the Tavor Leadership Academy, dealing with Jewish and Zionist education. We run two leadership academies, a gap-year program for Olim [Jewish] and Israelis, have more than 25 employees, and a budget greater than 10 million shekels, which has been my NGO activity. Before, I was in the army for around eight years, not including reserves, where I am a major. I ended my regular service and mandatory service, along with an additional five years. I was a company commander in the Golani Brigade, and was previously a student in a pre-military preparatory academy. I graduated from Tel-Aviv University with a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Security (which I studied toward during the army), which is the foundation of my education.
What started your interest in politics?
I always wanted to impact the future of the Jewish nation, both for my grandfather (my ancestors) and for my children. I always thought education was a very important mission, along with the leadership of Israel. I thought – and I still think – that politics should not be the first step in a career: to go into politics, you need to be experienced and mature, particularly in ideology. You need to have very strong views about where we should go. You need to be familiar with Israeli society, with diplomacy, with Middle East security, and with major social issues. You need to have leadership experience, whether from the army or the management world – you also need to know how to manage. You need many skills, which you can gain in many different fields, whether in public service, education, NGOs, or the business world. However, being a parliament member is not a role for someone who has just been on television for some demonstration, and suddenly becomes engaged in politics in their 20s, like we saw from Stav Shaffir.
What do you think about the current coalition, which relies on your party as a backbone?
I believe that on top of the written laws of each country, there are unwritten laws, and Yamina unfortunately broke some of the key unwritten laws of the Israeli democracy, and maybe every democracy. First and foremost, the role of Prime Minister should reflect massive support. Yamina’s head, Naftali Bennett, didn’t receive massive support in the past election. We only had around 200,000 votes, which is around 6% of the vote, far away from the minimum amount to claim the leadership of the nation, and maybe the Jewish nation. Israel is the biggest Jewish community on earth, the only armed and free one, so we have responsibility for Jews all around the world. Even the unity government [1984-1988] was ruled by the Labour and the Likud party, each of which had 35-40 mandates. This is the first unwritten law. The second is an unwritten contract between voters and leaders, wherein when a voter goes to the polling station and puts their ballot in the box, he is performing the most dramatic expression of a citizen in a democracy. He is now making a decision about where the country should go, and he can do it only based on the promises and agenda which party leaders publicly announce. Therefore, although we are all adults and we understand that in politics, leaders cannot accomplish everything they said, and sometimes some of the commitments contradict one another because of the result, there is still a basic assumption that party leaders will lead in a direction parallel to their commitments before the election. What happened with Yamina is that they broke every single promise they made to the public, to Yamina voters. After Meretz announced that they [Meretz] understand and recognize the right of the Court of Hague [the ICC] to sue Israeli officers, they [Yamina] said they will not sit with Meretz, since they are an anti-Zionist party. Yamina also said that on the first day, they will arrange and normalize the Young Settlements in Judea and Samaria. Yamina said that they will never sit with Mansour Abbas and Ra’am, since they are like Hamas, part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they support terror. Yamina said they will never create a left-wing government, that they are committed to the Right, that they will never let Yair Lapid be Prime Minister, even by rotation, and that these are all lies spread by Bibi. I can go on, there were many promises. Eventually, they broke each and every one of these commitments to the public, to their voters. I think it’s a travesty.
Were there discussions ahead of time about the possibility of doing such things, or was the decision made in the spur of the moment, after the elections?
In a very late stage in the election campaign, there were very short discussions. I expressed my opinion in these discussions, and Bennett’s response was “let’s hear what Abir Kara has to say”. Obviously, we all knew that Abir Kara was an ardent supporter of a government without Bibi, so Bennett essentially silenced me.
With the current situation involving rockets incoming from Lebanon and Gaza, how do you think this government will manage Israel’s security?
We are in a very delicate situation in terms of our security. We have seen a number of dangerous developments. For the first time in fifteen years, Hezbollah took responsibility for firing missiles at civilian targets. We had rockets yesterday from Gaza following clashes in Jenin, wherein four or five Islamic Jihad militants were killed. In both cases, there was no response from Israel. This week, Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said that because Meretz and Ra’am are in the government, and we can obviously add the Labour party as well, the edge of IDF military operations is less sharp and the ability of the government to take military steps is limited, since Meretz and Ra’am could topple the government. We don’t know if this is the real reason Israel decided not to respond to Hezbollah and Hamas, but even the notion that it might be a possibility is a reason for concern. We can see small events taking place which are also disturbing: there were ten militants tonight who came close to the military base on Mount Hermon, which is a very rare and negative development. Previously, Bennet has said “the fate of Sderot is like the fate of Tel-Aviv” [implying that the entirety of Israel must unite against terror]. He has said that rockets from Hezbollah will be taken as a declaration of war. We can see that in the driver’s seat as Prime Minister, he does not fulfil his own promises. We have also seen other dangerous developments in the diplomatic realm. We have the Americans, wherein Biden pressured Bennett not to respond to Hezbollah. Things are bad with the Americans right now – just look at what happened with the Golan Heights. The Secretary of State said the policy is the same, but it’s ambiguous – is the policy the same as before Trump, or after Trump? Together with the whole chapter of the Jerusalem consulate [to the Palestinians], this administration’s actions prevent a retreat from Trump’s successes in the Middle East.
With the new developments in Afghanistan, do you think this will also present a future danger to Israel’s security?
The Afghanistan disaster is tectonic, which has consequences far beyond Israel, to the global scale. This is a geopolitical disaster for a number of reasons. First, almost exactly twenty years after one of the most despicable acts of terror the West has experienced [9/11], there has been a historical moral victory for the Taliban against America. We all understand that the Taliban does not only represent themselves, and America does not only represent itself. The Taliban represents the most radical fundamental Islam, and America represents the West, democracy, liberalism, and liberty. Therefore, all democracies, all supporters of liberty, and the entire West, have suffered a severe blow from the visuals of this retreat. It may be that it was right to leave Afghanistan, it may be that the decision to enter Afghanistan was the wrong decision from the start, but when it comes to foreign policy and security, the implementation is everything. The implementation of this retreat was done in a careless manner which gave no thought to the visuals and the long-term effects. This was carried out in a manner that can only be described as amateur, and the damage is immense.
Now, about Israel, the connection of the Sunni and Shiite fundamentalist Islam is not something I predict will happen quickly [Iran and Afghanistan]. In the long term, this is actually bad news for Iran. However, the fundamentalist Sunni axis, composed of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, Hamas, and other Islamic organizations acting inside the borders of Israel – which took part in violent riots in the mixed cities such as Acre and Jaffa among others – received an unprecedented injection of vigor. After all, 70,000 Islamic Jihadists managed to defeat the greatest Empire in the world. This is very bad news, which will take its price in blood.
Do you think this will impact Yair Lapid’s decision to align Israeli foreign policy with the United States, particularly when it comes to Iran?
Yair Lapid understands absolutely nothing about foreign policy. He has no academic education, has no relevant experience in related fields, and has an ideology which is close to the Progressive one, if slightly less harsh. What we are seeing right now is that he is acting like an elephant in a chinaware shop, and is dealing great harm. Many of his messages have spelling errors and wrong flags, which are very problematic when it comes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On the Fourth of July, he used the flag of Liberia instead of the American one. If this were a one-time occurrence, fine, but he keeps repeated and compounding errors. His speech on antisemitism will be used in the future as a key tool in the hands of Holocaust deniers since he rejected the uniqueness of the occurrence.
The Holocaust is different from other genocides. First, there was no military or territorial conflict related with the Holocaust – the Jews were not a threat to German demography or borders, and none of them were armed before the war. There was no Jewish power that posed a threat to Germany. Usually, when you have a genocide, such as in Armenia or Rwanda, you have a conflict over territory or demography. Second, it was an industrial genocide – almost every other genocide is sporadic, there is no train system or death factories in term of the logistics. Third, it was a worldwide genocide. There were documents of how many Jews there were in Tunisia, in South Africa, in every single country on Earth. There was no way to get out of it, you could not say “I will convert to Nazism and then I will escape punishment” like you can do sometimes with Muslims, converting to Islam so they leave you alone.
Next, we can look at Yair Lapid’s approach to Poland. Lapid is right insofar as that unfortunately, like other nations in Europe, the Polish took part in the murder of Jews – we remember the Kielce pogrom, where after the War, Jews came back to their towns, so they killed and burned close to 50 Jews. To be honest though, the Ukranians were worse, and they were the major force in the death camps. What happened in Romania was worse. I don’t think Poland was different from Ukraine or Romania or the Netherlands, wherein the place where the least Jews survived was the Netherlands. Even if the Polish law is problematic, if we understand the European ecosystem, Poland has not acted against Israel differently from nations like Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Spain, which spend millions of euros to fund Palestinian terrorism and illegal construction in Judea and Samaria – NGO Monitor knows all about this. Poland is not a country which funds BDS-adjacent organizations like B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, which today is the new face of antisemitism. We should concentrate on contemporary antisemitism rather than focusing on the past – if you want to focus on the past, Germany has a far greater responsibility.
Currently in the US and across the Western world, there is an increasing presence of anti-Zionism and antisemitism. What advice do you have for Israel advocates in the dangerous environment which comprises the modern Diaspora?
It takes courage to stand with Israel, and it always took courage to stand with Judaism. Sometimes, this comes with a price. Today, the most popular thing is to go with the Progressive flow, based on ultra-superficial Marxist assumptions that the world is divided into the oppressors and the oppressed, and therefore the best life is that of a tall, white, Christian man, while the worst is a short, black, Muslim girl. There is no word to describe this ideology outside of idiotic. We had a very good example just two days ago in Afghanistan. You had a CNN reporter [Clarissa Ward] saying “they’re just chanting ‘Death to America,’ but they seem friendly at the same time”, pointing at members of the Taliban. In the Progressive world, there is no room for truth, and there is especially no room for painful truths. When you cannot admit that there is evil in this world, there is obviously no way to fight it. This is the great change between the America of 1945 and the America of 2021.
MK Chikli, thank you so much for the interview.
My pleasure, thank you.