Bezalel Smotrich, the presumed finance minister in the next government, has suggested that the laws of the Torah will dictate Israel’s economic approach once he enters office.
In an interview with the Haredi weekly magazine Mishpacha published Thursday, the far-right lawmaker was asked what he plans on doing differently from his predecessor, the secularist Avigdor Liberman.
“They’ve tried many different economic systems, right? They tried capitalism, neo-socialism, but there’s one thing they didn’t try — an economic approach called ‘So if you faithfully obey,’” Smotrich said.
He was citing the biblical verse in Deuteronomy 11:14, which reads: “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.”
“If we follow the Torah,” Smotrich continued, “we’ll be rewarded with financial abundance and a great blessing. That will be my economic approach.”
He said that as finance minister he would examine “the macro and the micro, go into data and use the most professional language there is,” but stressed that above all else, “we’re religious Jews.”
“You can’t wear a kippa, go to synagogue and then behave as if you’re secular,” he declared.
“If we believe in God, then we believe. We believe that Israel needs to promote more Torah and Judaism, and more of the commandment to settle the land, and more acts of lovingkindness and more solidarity.
“And then God will reward us with great abundance,” he said.
Smotrich said this rationale was what prompted him to demand, during coalition negotiations earlier this month, an increase in stipends the state grants to yeshiva students.
“I did it because studying the Torah is important, but also because I want Israel to officially declare: ‘Studying the Torah is important to us.’”
Addressing the issue of the integration of Haredim in the job market, Smotrich said the Haredi public is “interested in integrating… but wants to do so while maintaining its way of life, its beliefs, and the government should allow that.”
Presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to take office soon, after reaching interim deals with his coalition partners following weeks of extensive negotiations.
In its agreement with Shas, reached overnight Wednesday-Thursday, Netanyahu’s Likud party agreed that the party’s chairman Aryeh Deri would become minister of both interior and health. After roughly two years, Deri will instead replace Smotrich as finance minister. The Shas chairman will also be named deputy prime minister.
The coalition is expected to pass a special law enabling Deri’s appointment as a minister despite his having been recently handed a suspended prison sentence for tax fraud.