Orly Benny Davis, who is vying for the woman’s slot in the Likud primary, brings
a bit of each country she’s lived in, to Israeli politics.
Sitting in a
Tel Aviv café on Thursday, Davis sipped espresso with soda water, as is
customary in Rome – where she spent her high school years and young adulthood –
and discussed the importance of maintaining Israel’s Jewish
Still, after over 20 years in the US, American politics are what
make her a unique figure in the Likud race.
Davis is trying her luck at
getting into the Knesset eight years after a failed campaign to be the
Republican candidate for senator from South Carolina, and with years of work
with AIPAC under her belt.
The Likud primary candidate was born and
raised in Israel, and after returning several times, moved with her husband and
four children to Rehovot three years ago.
Since then, the political bug
has bitten Davis again, and she is itching to bring some of American political
culture to the Likud and to Israeli government.
“When I ran in the
Republican primary, the senate seat was empty, and a big, glorious group of
candidates saw an opportunity to run. We had 18 debates, where we met and
influenced each other,” Davis said.
“Women here are evading debate. They
don’t even tell their story,” she said.
Davis is confident that the women
running for the 24th spot on the Likud list won’t debate her, because she is
“It’s like first graders facing a high school senior.
They know a lot of people, but they don’t know what needs to be done,” she
“I’m the better candidate by far. Politics is what I do every day;
it’s been my deal for the last 20 years.”
Still she admitted, “being in
the Knesset won’t be easy. MKs are [verbally] beaten up every
Davis’ political views are driven by striving for freedom, she
said, explaining that “if you don’t give a person freedom, he cannot
“Freedom” is a major issue when it comes to religion, according to
Davis, citing the fact that Jewish couples in Israel can only get married and
divorced through the rabbinate.
“This is ludicrous, especially when it
comes to divorce,” she said. “Women do not have the liberty to live with whoever
they want, because the rabbinical courts decide. If civil issues are decided by
religion, it always hurts women.” According to Davis, there should be civil
marriages and divorces in addition to a religious system.
“I want to
represent women, and freedom is the most important thing for any woman in the
world,” she said.
“We need a system that gives women an even playing
The drive for freedom also stands behind Davis’ call for the
government to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
“I believe that,
now that the Jewish People have finally come to the Land of Israel, we need
freedom of worship. If you want to pray in America, no one will stop you, but
here we can’t pray on the Temple Mount,” she said.
“Why? I don’t
understand why that right has been taken from Jewish people. It’s Jewish land,
we have Jewish sovereignty.”
Davis recounted working with Sen. Lindsey
Graham (Republican-SC) on legislation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of
Israel, and said the American politician expressed interest in the topic and
“works to protect Holy Places.”
The Likud candidate also spoke out
against sectorial politics within her party, which recently faced criticism for
having Sephardic grassroots support while most of its ministers are
“I’m pale, but I’m Sephardic,” she quipped, referring to her
family’s Libyan roots.
“Still, I don’t think people should vote for me
because of it. Politicians, including Sephardim, should have a place [in the
Knesset] if they’re educated and know the material. They need to
Similarly, she discussed concerns that “Russians will take over
Likud” after the party formed a united list with Yisrael Beytenu
.“Why don’t we
sit together and see what unites us? We can make friends. Russians in Likud
should welcome debate. I love to talk, I think that’s the solution for
everything,” she said.
As for her relative anonymity in the Likud race,
Davis is not concerned.
“I’ve been preparing for my debut for years.
People say ‘nobody knows you,’ but they should,” she stated. “I’m a big player,
and I shouldn’t be ignored. The Likud needs me on its team.”