EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom
Israeli Vice PM sits down with Shalom Life to discuss peace plan, Iran and the new coalition
This past Wednesday, Shalom Life had the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one, exclusive interview with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, the Minister for Regional Development in Israel, as well as the Development of the Negev and the Galilee.
Shalom was in Toronto, Ont. for the day to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of Chabad later in the evening, at the Spirit of the Community dinner in Vaughan. He also visited New York and Washington during a week-long stay in North America, in which time he met with World ORT and Unistream, both of which are collaborative partners of his ministry. On Thursday, Shalom was the keynote speaker at an event in New York, in which Rabbi Haim Drukman was presented with the Israel Prize, one of Israel’s most highly regarded awards.
Shalom offered his thoughts on a wide array of topics during the discussion, including the Iranian nuclear threat, the Arab Spring’s effect on Israel’s position in the Middle East, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“It takes two to tango. We don’t need a big coalition to do it,” said the Likud MK, while explaining how Israel’s new super-coalition, formed last month in a unity deal that saw Kadima join the government, will affect peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The unity deal was signed for two main purposes, according to Shalom. The first of which is to initiate political reform in the Knesset, which he says may increase the necessary election threshold for a party to be allocated a seat from two to four per cent of the overall vote, resulting in less parties holding seats. Shalom says that the government also hopes to find a way to recruit ultra-orthodox and Arabic groups to the army by July 21, or alternatively, to national service jobs such as Magen David Adom, hospitals and police stations.
Silvan Shalom and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AP
“Of course it helps. It brings more stability. You are not under a threat everyday of that party or another to bring down the government. We are trying to resume the negotiations; unfortunately [the PA] are not really willing to do so,” said Shalom, noting that the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt was signed without the support of the Israeli left wing.
“Since we took power, they came with many excuses why not [to negotiate]. First one was they asked Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to accept the idea of two-state solution like his predecessors and after he did so at Bar Ilan University, they asked him to freeze the settlements for 10 months; a demand that was not put in front of any other Prime Minister of Israel before and he did so, even though they didn’t come, they didn’t show up.”
Shalom, who recently suggested that the government must find a sweeping solution to deal with issues relating to the West Bank, reiterated his support for settlement construction, citing a historical lack of sovereignty in the region.
“People live there. There are a few hundreds of them and they need to have a normal life,” he said. “They need to have schools, they need to have kindergartens, medical care centres, fire stations, police and everything that is needed.”