Betzalel Smotrich, the head of the right-wing Tkuma party, was appointed as an interim Minister of Transportation who will serve until the national elections that will be held September 17. Smotrich was also appointed a full member of the security cabinet. The elections in September will be a second round of voting that is necessary after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party could not form a coalition after being given the mandate to form a new government.
“I am not the prime minister’s man, I am a man of the people,” Smotrich said in a televised interview with Kan broadcasting on Tuesday. “I am a man of the public who sent me, and — I hope I’m not starting an outrage here — I work for God and do what I believe is good for the State of Israel and the people of Israel, according to my worldview.”
Smotrich’s party is part of a group of right-wing parties that joined together in the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP) which includes Jewish Home, National Union, and Otzma Yehudit. Together, the URWP won five seats in the last elections.
In the interview, he acknowledged that politics required straying from ideals.
“When you move from the stands to the field, on the one hand you have more influence, but on the other hand you take ministerial responsibility also for decisions you aren’t happy with. You have to bite the bullet,” he said.
Smotritz has openly expressed his desire to be appointed the Justice Minister. In the unsuccessful coalition negotiations, Netanyahu promised the position to Smotrich but that promise disappeared when the possibility of a coalition vanished. Smotrich expressed hope that he will still achieve this goal.
“Our hope to get the justice portfolio has not disappeared, but for this we will have to work hard and win in the upcoming elections,” he said.
Smotrich became the focus of controversy two weeks ago when he stated his intention to use the position as head of the Justice Ministry to change the legal system to one more consistent with Torah law.
“We want the justice portfolio because we want to restore the Torah justice system,” Smotrich said in a radio interview with Kan broadcasting. “The Jewish people is a special people that needs to live according to the Torah.”