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With the March 28 election day closing in, Kadima launched this week a full-scale effort to court Anglo voters. The efforts began Saturday night at a campaign meeting featuring Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit, and Tzachi Hanegbi. The speakers spoke primarily in Hebrew, but also addressed the Anglos in attendance.
Kadima campaign manager Tzachi Hanegbi urged Israel's English-speaking olim to consider supporting Kadima as an extension of the Zionism that brought them to Israel in the first place. "I want you to feel that what you are doing with Kadima is the same thing that you did when you came to this country," Hanegbi said. "It's an act of Zionism. It's an act of sacrifice. It's an act of idealism, and this is what we feel Kadima is respecting."
While the event represented Kadima's first overtures towards Israel's Anglo community, it was attended mainly by Israelis, as well as Russian and Ethiopian olim. The speeches lasted just over an hour and a half, of which approximately ten minutes were spoken in English. Many Anglos who attended the event were not olim, but rather university students studying in Israel for semester or year-long programs interested in seeing some of Israel's top politicians speak.
Still, Yaron Sharabi, Anglo campaign manager for Kadima, dismissed the idea of having a separate event for Anglos as other parties have. Sharabi scrapped initial plans for an all-Anglo event, in favor of Saturday's dual-language meeting. An all-English event made Sharabi uncomfortable because "Kadima's way is not to isolate or create segregation between different populations." Saturday's event, Sharabi said, was designed to "take the Anglos" and "give them respect."
Alexander Chester, a Kadima activist from Minneapolis, MN, said Kadima needed to define itself clearly to Anglo voters. "Everyone knows the Kadima slogans," he declared, "but not many people, especially in the Anglo community, know the actual policy. I think it's a winning policy that would attract people from across the spectrum."
Electoral reform in particular is one of the issues that would appeal especially to Anglos, according to Chester. Describing the problem of political instability, Chester noted that "in the last election there were 14 parties, and the two biggest parties combined didn't even form a majority. That's not a feasible way to govern." Kadima's platform pushes for governmental reform and constituency-based politics, ideas Chester thinks will appeal to Americans and Anglos who "come from more mature democracies."
Brian Anderson, former director of the Watford Football Club in Britain and the only Anglo speaker at Saturday's campaign event, suggested Kadima's Anglo appeal comes not just from its principles, but also its people: "The Shimon Pereses of this world, and the Ehud Olmerts of this world are exactly the right people to reach out to the Anglo community, and these are the people that Anglo-Saxons are reaching out to."
Anderson added that although the majority of Saturday's event was in Hebrew, he believed most Anglos knew Hebrew or were in the process of learning it.
28-year-old Shawna Novak, a new immigrant from Toronto, Canada, is not fluent in Hebrew. She came to the event to show her support for Kadima and hopefully learn more about the platform. Novak was excited for an event that featured Hebrew and English, but found it hard to understand key points on many issues.
Novak was impressed by the event, but conceded that for Anglos "the easiest way to find information if you're interested is on the internet." Still, Novak wasn't at all fazed by the dearth of English at the event: "I think it was a huge success, and I'm excited for the future of Israel, with Kadima."