The Media Line interviews Likud parliamentarian Sharren Haskel ahead of Israel's September 17 national elections.

Likud’s Haskel: ‘If We Don’t Step Up, Nobody Else is Going to’ (with VIDEO)

Sharren Haskel woos right-wing voters to support ruling party

In the second part of TLV Internationals’ ‘Sunset Series,’ moderated by The Media Line, Sharren Haskel, No. 30 on the ruling Likud party’s candidates list, spoke to a group of prospective voters. Representing the party of incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Haskel made the case for why right-wing Israelis should vote for the Likud in the September 17 elections.

“Most of our campaign now is addressed to a particular audience – [namely, those whose votes were lost because they cast ballots in April’s national vote for right-wing parties that failed to reach the 3.25 percent electoral threshold] – to make sure that they will come and support the Likud party,” Haskel told The Media Line.

Haskel, who at thirty-five years of age is Israel’s second-youngest legislator, is trying to boost the number of seats Likud garners in September in order to avoid a repeat of the situation earlier this year, when Netanyahu won the election but was then unable to form a coalition.

She is trying to persuade voters like Manuela and Yaakov.

Manuela moved to Israel five years ago and lives in Tel Aviv. In April, she voted for the New Right – a party created by former education minister Naftali Bennett and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked – and told The Media Line that she was again unlikely to back the Likud this time around.

While Manuela is undecided about which right-wing or religious party she will choose, she wanted to hear a Likud lawmaker speak because she hopes Netanyahu will form a government (assuming he wins the upcoming contest) with whichever party she decides to vote for.

“I wouldn’t be happy if the Likud joined a coalition with [Avigdor Liberman’s secularist] Yisrael Beitenu and [the centrist] Blue and White list [since that would exclude the religious parties],” Manuela said. “My parents are from the former Soviet Union and I’m disappointed in Liberman.”

Liberman refused to join a Likud-led coalition this spring unless Netanyahu pledged to pass, without amendments, a military draft bill to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox youth who serve in the army. Historically, most of Yisrael Beitenu’s supporters were immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Yaakov, who is from Westchester County, New York, will become an Israeli citizen in the next month, after which he will join the army. Security is a high-priority issue for him and he agrees with much of the Likud’s platform.

However, unity among Israelis is more important to him and he is therefore open to voting for a party that is “less divisive,” as long as it is right-wing. “If there are too many people opposing Likud it would be bad for the country, but if that happens I would rather Blue and White win, if they can form a coalition.”

During Monday’s interview, Haskel emphasized the Likud’s hawkish positions on security.

“The thing that dictates who is Left and who is Right in Israel is how they view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what they’re willing to do,” she said. “If you believe in a two-state solution, if you believe in a ’67 border, you’re from the left-wing, and that is okay. [But] I think you’re wrong, I think it’s dangerous.”

Haskel also touted her smaller government stance, calling for lower taxes and less regulation.

“Most of my legislation cancels [other] legislation,” she said, citing her bill to close some 80 food councils over the next two years – a move that would effectively lower food prices by eliminating an entire level of bureaucracy that farmers must navigate in order to get their products to consumers.

“If we as the younger generation will not step up and fight for what we believe in and make the change, no one is going to,” Haskel asserted.

Meanwhile, she also understands the importance of having women in public office.

“It’s a huge responsibility. I know that I’m not just representing an ideological point of view, but I’m also representing 50 percent of the population,” she said.

“Most women know how to put ego to the side [to get things done], Haskel concluded. “It’s always amazing to be able to break another record for the number of women [in parliament], and I hope that we will continue until we will comprise at least half [of the legislature].”

(Tara Kavaler is an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

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