"When I took the decision to go ahead with this historic move, which is so important for the State of Israel, I knew there would be criticism. I'm not oblivious to it, but I also know that leaders, when they make important and difficult decisions, must know how to live with this criticism and look to the future – to what's best for Israel and its future," newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz told Ynet just a few days after his Kadima party joined the coalition.
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"I am completely at peace with the decision. Over the past three and a half years (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's government has been unable to advance a number of issues, and now it has a great opportunity to do so," said Mofaz, who was also appointed minister-without-portfolio.
"The criticism leveled by the citizens touched my heart. I understand there are risks, but even more so, there are opportunities."
Netanyahu (L) and Mofaz after announcing unity deal (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Netanyahu called off the September elections following the controversial unity government agreement with Kadima.
Most voters do not believe you had Israel's best interests in mind when you joined the coalition – but your own personal benefit.
"I believe the majority of Israelis want a unity government. The public wants elections to take place at the appropriate time and wants a change in the system of government, as well as a law for the equal distribution of the burden. This move (unity government) was dramatic, and the public has initially accepted it with skepticism. I can understand that, and this is why I am open and attentive to the criticism. I assume the anger also stems from the fact that the (unity deal) was finalized in less than 24 hours."
Mofaz sworn in as deputy PM, minister (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
You told the public that the PM is a liar. Suddenly he's become so trustworthy in your eyes that you were able to join his coalition?
"Since (calling Netanyahu a liar) I have spoken with him and we've put it behind us. Before us are a series of political, social and economic processes. Now we have the basis to move forward together - and our actions will speak for themselves."
How will it be possible to believe you from now on?
"I have always been a proponent of a unity government, even when (former Kadima leader) Tzipi Livni was unable to form a government. As opposition chairman, it was my job to find a way to deal with the Netanyahu government, to point out its failures and mistakes – and that is what I did. An election campaign would have cost Israel two billion shekels ($520M). I was preparing to go to elections, but when the opportunity to form a historic unity government presented itself, I felt it was the right thing to do. I can understand the suspicion and cynicism, and I am aware of the lack of faith in our (political system), but judge me according to the results."
Why did the signed unity government agreement fail to note that more Kadima members would be appointed ministers?
"Because we did not reach a final agreement on this matter. We said that if needed, we'll discuss it later. I didn't ask anything for myself either."
Should more social protests be held this summer, will you attend them?
"I plan on helping every protest. Now that I have joined the government I can influence it from the inside. I am very attentive to the calls of last summer's protest."
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