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Israel Elections: Ayelet Shaked – ‘It’s been a tough year, but I still have a lot to do’

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked is ready to storm policymaking once again and warns against voter fatigue and petty politics. “Likud likes it when the national-religious parties are small, weak, pathetic, with the Science and Space portfolio. They don’t want us with Justice or Defense. That’s less convenient. Why? Because we challenge them,” she asserts.

For the past few weeks, Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked has been crisscrossing the country, holding events and meetings. She doesn’t hug, doesn’t kiss, doesn’t schmooze. She just sticks strictly to the talking points that are important to her, smiles occasionally, and never gets sucked into any kind of small talk (“I don’t like to chit chat”).

She speaks with the same level of determination in front of hundreds of activists at the party conference in central Israel as she does in front of 20 elderly men and one young woman at a community center in a small town in the south. And when one of the men, who seems to be the oldest, tells her at the end of the event, “I’m not convinced,” she takes the time to listen, always focused, and answers him, succinctly.

Since December 2018, Ayelet Shaked has managed to form the New Right and quit Habayit Hayehudi together with Naftali Bennett; languish with her party outside parliament after the April 2019 elections; get fired from her position as justice minister; lead Yamina – a faction comprising the New Right, National Union, and Habayit Hayehudi parties – in the second elections of 2019, held in September; get just seven seats, and be pushed down to third place in the Yamina list for the 2020 elections.

While her male colleagues – Bennett, Habayit Hayehudi leader Rafi Peretz, and National Union head Bezalel Smotrich – all got senior portfolios like Defense, Education, and Transportation, she was left outside the government. She is now in charge of revving the voters, who are tired and apathetic to any political message or promise.

“This was a tough year,” she admits. “A tough and exhausting election year. For a Likud member of parliament, elections are not a big deal, especially if you don’t need to go through a primary. For party leaders, and especially small party leaders fighting for every vote, elections are a whole different story.”

“I can feel the fatigue on the ground. Everyone is tired. The messages repeat themselves, there’s no bandwidth, no interest. People don’t have the patience, I get it. For most of them, this is the fourth consecutive election, if you include the municipal elections, too.

“But this fatigue is really dangerous. These elections are critical for the right, for the national religious, for the settlements and the whole country. I have no choice but to work very hard because we need to be an influential factor in the decisions that will be taken, whether it’s a right-wing government or a left-wing government, sovereignty in Judea and Samaria or negotiating with the Palestinians.”

Read the interview in Israel Hayom