“Even in Israel—a land of milk, honey, and a fresh news item every 60 seconds—Shaked, just 42 years old, is a head-spinning success story,” Yonit Levi wrote on Tuesday in a lengthy article in The Atlantic this week (The Woman Who Could Be Israel’s Next Leader).
Levi cites a recent poll showing that if Shaked were at the head of the Likud party – should the current leader, PM Benjamin Netanyahu were detained over this or that indictment (there are at least five potentially pending) – Likud would still win 33 Knesset seats, same as the polls predict for Netanyahu.
Shaked is a ball of contradictions, which gives her power and makes her uniquely pan-Israeli, according to Levi, who notes: “She’s not religious—which is unprecedented for someone so central to a national-religious party like Jewish Home—and she doesn’t live in the settlements. She was raised in Tel Aviv, the liberal stronghold of Israel, but her ideology is deeply rooted in the hard right that opposes any evacuation of West Bank settlements; that views the Oslo Accords and a Palestinian state as an unmitigated catastrophe for Israel; that believes the courts, the media, and academia all lean strongly toward the left. Shaked promises to change all that.”
Former Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, who served in the Knesset as member of Likud and then followed Ariel Sharon into his short-lived Kadima party (erected specifically to facilitate the exiling of 8,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip), is not a fan of Shaked. “She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he told Levi. “She’s not what you’d expect from the religious-nationalist movement, and this works in her favor. The people who are disturbed by what her party represents are soothed by what they see in her, and her base applauds her shrewd sophistication, as in, ‘We slipped in a front someone who captures their minds and does it better than we do.’”
As Justice Minister, Shaked has done more than any of her rightwing predecessors to push back the largely left-leaning monopoly of the courts. She is unabashed about her view that the courts must be brought down a peg to make them even with the other two branches of government. And the courts are not Jewish enough, she believes.
“The courts’ rulings do not view preservation of the Jewish majority as a value that needs to be taken into consideration,” she told a conference of the Israeli bar association. And she is not concerned about the dichotomy between Israel as a Jewish and as Democratic state:
“The proliferation of obituaries lamenting the death of democracy has become absurd,” she has said, noting: “If the Knesset were to pass a law rescinding the voting rights of women or red-haired people, or a bill that extended its term by five more years, this would signal the collapse of our democracy. In such a case, I don’t think that even the court could save us from ourselves.”
Regarding the prime minister thing, Shaked continues to declare her loyalty to her long-time partner and current party leader Naftali Bennett. If anyone should replace Netanyahu it should be him.
And what if a political constellation arises that would enable her to bypass Bennett?
“There’s no such thing as a political constellation; no one is given the premiership as a gift,” she responded to Levi’s question. “To be prime minister, you need to fight many entities, you need to be very determined. It’s not going to fall in your lap. And right now, in Israeli politics, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the person most determined to be prime minister.”
So she didn’t really answer the what-if Bennett question…