Monday, February 9, 2009

Text of the LifeinIsrael interview with Uri Bank

This is the verbatim text of the blog post by Rafi Goldmeier in which he interviews candidate Uri Bank.

I have been given the opportunity to interview Uri Bank, a candidate on the Ichud Leumi, National Union, party list. The interview was delayed because Uri was called up for reserve duty in the Gaza War.

Uri Bank, 40, a political strategist and administrator, made aliya from the United States when he was twelve years old. At the age of seventeen, when his family returned to the States, he decided to stay in Israel on his own. He was a resident of the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem for 22 years, and moved to the community of Nevei Daniel in Gush Etzion in 2004. Uri is married and the father of three. He holds bachelor degrees in Political Science and Multidisciplinary Studies from the Faculties of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Uri served in the Tank Corps as a “chayal boded” (a “lone-soldier” – a soldier who has no family in Israel) under the auspices of the Kibbutz Hadati’s Shiluv Program. This five-year program combines a full three years of army duty with two years of yeshiva study. Uri serves as a tank-commander in the reserves.

Uri is the Chairman of the Moledet Party’s Executive Board. He was recently elected number one on the Moledet slate for Knesset, which places him at number five on the joint Ichud Leumi (National Union) slate for the 18th Knesset.

Uri’s experience includes:

·         Director of the Ichud Leumi-Israel Beiteinu Faction in the Knesset.

·         Executive Director of the IDF preparatory yeshiva (“mechina”) in Nokdim.

·         Senior Advisor to MK Benny Elon – both in the Knesset and during Minister Elon’s terms as Minister of Tourism. In this capacity, Uri worked extensively on legislation such as:

o        Obliging the Government to obtain the approval of at least 61 Members of Knesset before negotiating with any other entity regarding the borders of the State of Israel.

o        Weaning the country’s budget off of its dependency on American financial support, in order to increase Israel’s independence in policy-making.

o        Applying Israeli civil law to the residents of Yesha.

o        Shortening the work-week to make Sunday a day-of rest.

o        Amending the tax-reform bill to reduce its harmful implications for Olim

Q: Why did you decide to get into politics in Israel, and why specifically with the Ichud Leumi party?

Uri: I've always believed in actively trying to implement and actuate my ideals instead of sitting on the sidelines while criticizing others and/or the given situation. This is why I became an activist on the grass-roots level while still a student at Hebrew U. Those were the Oslo years and my friends and I were out in the streets doing our very best to warn the Israeli public what would happen if land and guns were conceded to the palestinians under the flawed Land for Peace paradigm. Unfortunately, our warnings went unheeded and the price has been the terrible bloodshed that has unfolded ever since.

I am an idealist and believe in standing up for what I believe in - even if it means self-sacrifice when it comes to my time, my strength, my resources and my own position in life and/or politics.

I chose the Moledet party specifically because it was the only party that offered a real diplomatic alternative to the Oslo Accords/Road Map etc. It was the one party of the National Camp that was actually not only saying "NO" to the left-wing's suicidal plans, but actually offering up a viable plan of its own in order to end the Israeli-Arab conflict. The other element that attracted me to Moledet was the fact that it was not a sectarian party defined by religous or ethnic lines, but one who's ideology entails orthodox and secular Jews working together in true harmony. One of the things we make sure of is that none of members are "anti"... one cannot be a member of Moledet if one is anti-orthodox and the same is true if one is anti-secular. We are interested in people being good Jews, which means close to Jewish tradition and heritage, but not necessarily everyone being orthodox or the opposite.

The Moledet Party has always been one of the parties that make up the joint Ichud Leumi list for Knesset - ever since the Ichud's inception in 1999. The two conditions that Moledet has set down for its participation, which the joint Ichud Leumi list has always met, are the two issues I mentioned above: the list's platform including Moledet's diplomatic plan for resolvingthe Israeli-Arab conflict and the list including representatives of both the orthodox and the secular parts of Israeli society.

Q: How did you, a relative newcomer, get so highly placed on the Ichud leumi list?

Uri:Many people assume that as an English speaker, I must be a newcomer, but I have lived in Israel my entire adult life. I got involved in Israeli politics 15 years ago and have slowly but surely moved up in the ranks during that period of time.

Q: What do you bring to the Ichud that made you so obviously attractive to them?

Uri: I have accumulated a great deal of legislative experience as MK/Minister Benny Elon’s longtime senior aide and have had extensive experience in dealing with Knesset politics. I have served as director of the Ichud Leumi faction in the Knesset and I have been the Chairman of the Moledet party's executive Board for the past six years. I am also the Executive Director of the Israel Initiative, the only nationalist plan offered as an alternative to the Oslo paradigm and a member of the JNF Board of Directors. All of these positions have made me a uniquely prepared candidate; one that will be able to "hit the ground running" once elected to Knesset, without the long learning process that is characteristic for new MK's.

Q: Please tell us, the voters, why vote Ichud Leumi over any other right wing party (not against any specific party, but why specifically Ichud Leumi).

Uri: If you wish to understand a party, any party, you must look at two things, their voting record and their platform. I think that it has become abundantly clear that the Ichud Leumi has been the only party that has shown a consistent and strong opposition to territorial compromise. The Ichud Leumi is the only party that totally negates the institution of another palestinian state west of the Jordan River or any other type of giving land/sovereignty to Arabs, as well as being the only party that is promoting any kind of viable alternative peace plan that will bring real peace to Israel (see:

We have consistently been the most responsible voice in Israeli politics, warning anyone who cared to listen that the Land for Peace paradigm was doomed to fail and that conceding any land to the Arabs would only get us (and them…) more bloodshed. We are the modern-day Halutzim. The pioneers that have built up this country and were willing to live in Yehuda, Shomron and Gush Katif under harsh and dangerous conditions in order to protect the rest of Israel's citizens.

We are proud of the fact that we were successful in uniting five different parties and of the fact that we have Secular Jews and Haredi Jews as a central part of our leadership and constituency. Our commitment to cooperate with one another is not out of political need, but out of an ideology of Achdut Yisrael and together we create a much stronger force to fight for Am, Eretz and Torat Yisrael.

Our Chairman Ketzaleh and MK Uri Ariel have done no less, and maybe even more, than the Mafdal reps. when it comes to securing government funding for the Zionut HaDatit institutions and Arutz 7 and you can bank on the fact that they both will continue to do so with their proven talents and track records.

And on top of all of the above - you get one thing more when you vote for the Ichud Leumi... and that's me! The Jerusalem Post has recently named me: "the only Anglo candidate running with a party currently represented in the Knesset who has any chance of getting elected." I have formulated an initiative to help cut through the red-tape and injustices that many times accompany Western Olim absorption into the Israeli society and work force. Please see the attached document for the full details of this initiative. According to the most recent polls, I am the one who is now on the cusp. Voting for the Ichud Leumi will likely get me into Knesset, where I intend to serve as the Anglo Community's Congressman to whom I will be accountable.

Q: What is your opinion on the split in the National Religious political world and Ichud not running together with Bayit Yehudi? Will the split harm the right wing side of Israeli politics? Why could the unity party not work?

Uri: It is always a shame when there must be a political split. The Ichud Leumi believes in the essential unity of the Jewish people. This can be seen in the diverse composition of our party. The Ichud Leumi is constituted of Chassidim like Rabbi Wolpe, National Religious like MK Uri Ariel, Secular Jews like MK Dr. Arieh Eldad and many other strands of thought and lifestyle.

We have a vote sharing agreement with the Jewish Home party and look forward to working with them on legislation. However, the Jewish Home party has stated its intention to allow its MKs to vote as they wish on issues on territorial concessions.

Speaking with Arutz Sheva MK Nissan Slomiansky stated that “…it’s obvious that every Prime Minister in Israel has to talk with the PA; even I would talk with the PA……” The Jewish Home has declared itself to be neither a left wing, nor a right wing party. In effect, they have renounced nationalism and deterrence as part of their platform, and in doing so they have split the land of Israel camp.

Their previous Chairman Zvulun Orlev (the current #2 on their list) continued to sit in Ariel Sharon's government even after this government decided to expel the Jews of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron -thus contributing to Sharon's ability to actuate the expulsion plan.

Another advantage the Ichud Leumi has over the Jewish Home is that the Ichud Leumi represents the entire ethnic and ideological makeup of this nation while the Jewish Home is non-ideological and only represents the interests of one aspect, one group, within Am Yisrael. They are therefore a small, sectarian party that caters only to the National Orthodox community and does not serve as a bridge between the secular and orthodox sides of Israeli society. This is proven by the fact that they have never agreed to put a non-orthodox Jew on their list for Knesset.

Q: Which part do you see as being Ichud Leumi's main rival and competition for voters? Yisrael beiteinu? Bayit Yehudi? Likud? other?

Uri: I believe that the biggest danger to the land of Israel camp at this point stems from Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Lieberman’s campaign slogan is about the trust that we must place in him. I truly believe that we must trust Lieberman to act according to his principles and that we must believe his words.

According to the Yisrael Beiteinu party platform “The responsibility for primarily Arab areas such as Umm Al-Fahm and the ‘triangle’ will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In parallel, Israel will officially annex Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria. Israel is our home; Palestine is theirs.” Lieberman would give up large tracts of land within the Green line and hand them over to a PA that has a history of terror and radicalization of its subject populace. Lieberman has also stated his intention to give up neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as part of any peace agreement. This would cause a repeat of the shootings on the Gilo neighborhood a hundred fold upon us.

Moreover, Lieberman’s support for civil marriage would destroy the very fabric from which our Jewish state is cut.

Israel Beiteinu has taken the position, if you actually read their platform, of dividing the state of Israel and even Jerusalem, bringing such places as Ben Gurion international airport and West Jerusalem under the type of attacks that are currently being perpetrated on Sderot, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Saad, Netivot and more, due to the Likud led disengagement, which Bibi voted for.

Q: How do you plan on attracting voters and convincing them to vote for you rather than for that party (from above - the primary competition)?

Uri: I think that the most important thing for us to do is to simply show people Lieberman’s ideas in his own words. It becomes pretty obvious, once you read his platform, that his toughness against the Arabs is a calculated pose, with nothing substantive behind it. He would be tough against the Arabs? Even Kadima voted to ban the Arab parties. He is just Kadima with tougher talk.

Q: Do you have a message to the wider public, or are you purely a "settler" party? The ads Ichud have been running have been pretty limited to the "settler" public - "To Settle the Land and not be Afraid". Is that your target audience or do you see the party having appeal to the public at large?

Uri: Our message is one for the entire population of Israel. Almost every city, town and village was settled or resettled some time within the last hundred or so years. I think that the message here is that we should not have to be afraid to put down our roots and to settle anywhere in Eretz Yisrael, pre or post ’67 borders. Settlement does not refer to Judea and Samaria. Settlement refers to the Golan, the Negev, expanding Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem and building new cities like Modi'in. However, the continuing expansion of our population and its related economic and cultural growth is impeded by Arab aggression and Jewish timidity.

How can our pioneers, who are settling the Negev and continuing to make it bloom, continuing the dream of such as Ben Gurion, continue to live when they are under missile attack? How can Nefesh B’Nefesh convince new Olim, as they have been attempting, to move up north when there is a persistent threat from Hezbollah? We stand for the right of Jews to live anywhere within our land and our country without fear and without prejudice. This is not a limited message, we are all pioneers. Rafi, I believe that you live in Ramat Bet Shemesh. This is a settlement. By right, it is no different than Sderot in the Negev, or Maaleh Efraim in the Jordan Valley. Do not forget, that the Arabs consider your home as much a settlement as mine in Gush Etzion.

Q: Ichud Leumi is made up of various factions that would have run alone and probably wasted votes. Can Marzel, or any other faction for that matter, veto any future coalition agreement with the Likud? What power do the individual factions within Ichud have on the party as a whole?

Uri: The parties will reach their decision by democratic majority within the elected Knesset faction. None of the parties has the power to veto decisions, but we will make every effort to reach joint, unanimous decisions whenever possible.

Q: Is there anything else, a message or point that you would like to take this opportunity to get across to the voters?

Uri: The future of the state of Israel is now at stake. As a believer, I do not for a moment doubt our right to this land, or our eventual triumph. However, there is nothing written that says that it must be easy or that there will not be hard times if we do not stand fast and work hard for the dreams of our Zionist forebears. The left has brought us to a situation where we have been asked to sacrifice needlessly on the alter of “process”. By this I mean that the idealistic (though flawed) attempts at peace by Yitzchak Rabin have been replaced by a continuing allegiance to a dead process that has not brought us any closer to peace, but has caused tremendous death and destruction on both sides. If you wish to find the root cause of Arab suffering since 1993, please look no further than our own “peaceful” left.

I do not wish to be a “sacrifice for peace” nor do I want anyone else to suffer for the left’s repeated mistakes. I believe that we have seen the results of concessions, results that the Ichud Leumi has warned about since the beginning. If we want a strong Israel, if we want a secure Israel, if we want an Israel that is proud of itself, then we must choose to support a party that will not cater to the defeatists on the left and that will not buckle under pressure from nations that stood by as six million Jews were murdered.

There is hope, there is a future, there will be security, but we must be strong and resolute. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is the Ichud Leumi.


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