MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich isn’t what you would particularly expect to find in a party like Kadima: She’s not a fan of “trendy” groups like the New Israel Fund, or trendy movements like feminism. With an anti-intuitive approach to many issues, Shamalov-Berkovich has a unique spin that differentiates her from her party-mates. But according to her, Kadima fits her just fine. “Today, there is little or no ideological differences between Israeli parties. Is there anyone that doesn’t want peace? No. It’s just a question of how we get there – and even this is far less divisive now than in the past.”
Several weeks ago, Shamalov-Berkovich filed a no-confidence motion against the government – not unusual for a Kadima MK. But her reasons certainly don’t fit most Israelis’ image of what a Kadima MK should stand for. “The Likud claims to be a rightwing party, yet it is giving up Jerusalem, it is abandoning a city in the center of the country, right next to the airport, it is ignoring the Galilee. Drive through the Negev, and all you see are Bedouin taking over everything.” For those reasons, and others, says Shamalov-Berkovich, she has no confidence in Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.
The reason the country is in such poor shape, Shamalov-Berkovich says, is because of the leadership’s “obsession” with reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. “Everyone is interested in what the U.S., the EU, and the OECD say, while they are satisfied to see the rest of the country fall apart. I am interested in preserving the Jewish people, and Israel as a Jewish state.”
Among those “obsessed” with the peace process – for the wrong reason – is the New Israel Fund, well-known for funding far left organizations and events. Despite the fact that fellow Kadima MKs and supporters, like Haim Ramon, are active in the NIF, Shamalov-Berkovich has nothing but sharp criticism for the group. “The NIF hurts Israel and Israelis. When I found that they were the ones who informed on Israel to the Goldstone Commission, I got very angry. I know there are many people, even in my party, who say that the NIF does ‘good work,’ helping the poor and such, but any good they do is more than cancelled out by the damage they do to Israel’s security. I think we need a thorough investigation, not only of where they get their money, but what their real agenda is,” she says.
Shamalov-Berkovich says that she doesn’t see Kadima as a left-wing party. “I came into Kadima with Ariel Sharon, and he certainly would not support the NIF or such ideas. Those who think that way about Kadima are not thinking correctly about the party.” Of course, Sharon is no longer leader of Kadima – Tzipi Livni is, but even she, says Shamalov-Berkovich, is not the dyed-in-the-wool leftist many believe her to be. “I know many people think that way about Tzipi, but I’m not sure it’s true.” Not that Shamalov-Berkovich is against negotiations. “I don’t want anyone to think I am against peace. But even those on the hard right want peace. Only psychotic nuts want war. The question is, how do we go about achieving peace.”
But Israel has other problems that need attention – and Shamalov-Berkovich says she is dedicated to improving internal Israeli society wherever she can. One of her efforts involves ensuring that cellphone antennas are not set up in the vicinity of schools or hospitals. “The scientific studies on this are clear, that cellphone antennas are health hazards.” The law has already passed its first Knesset reading, and is set for its second and third reading in the coming weeks.
The reason she directed her legislation at schools and public institutions was out of concern for helping the average person – those who are faced with the task of daily living and surviving. “There isn’t enough concern in our society for family values, and in my opinion more needs to be done to strengthen families of all kinds.”
One of the manifestations of the weakening of society in recent years, says MK Shamalov-Berkovich, is the loss of role identity among women in Western society. “Many people will call me a reactionary for opposing radical feminism, but where has 100 years of feminism actually gotten us? Women still earn barely half of what men earn, and women are still not equal partners in leading any society. Even in the Knesset there are only 22 women. Isn’t 100 years long enough to achieve the equality feminists dream of?”
And while that much-longed-for equality is still elusive, Shamalov-Berkovich says, society suffers. “Families where women work don’t do as well, because the woman either has to spend money on day care and household help, or ignore their families.” Men have proven unwilling or unable to take on the domestic roles they would need to in order to make feminism work, and while their re-education continues to falter, the family suffers. “Equality for men and women is irrelevant, because men and women are different. Is it fair that a single mother earns 62% of what a man earns if she is supporting a family herself? She obviously needs more money, to pay for the household help she needs while she works,” Shamalov-Berkovich says, adding that families need to look at their own needs, instead of automatically subscribing to the latest social fashions.
But hasn’t feminism made it possible for her to be a Knesset member? “Nonsense,” Shamalov-Berkovich says. “It was the can-do spirit I learned growing up in my parents’ house. My mother, who had six children, did not work, and my father treated her with such respect, like a queen. The honor she received showed me that a woman could be respected as a woman, and gave me the confidence to forge my path in politics. For that to happen in families, we need more family values – not more feminism.”