Politics: The accountability ticket

Anglo candidates angle for Knesset seats.

November 17, 2005 23:02
knesset 88

knesset88. (photo credit: )

People who move to Israel from English-speaking countries often complain that there is no accountability in the Israeli political system. In fact, there isn't even a word for accountability in the Hebrew language. Most people just grumble and gripe about how much they wish they had their own representative in the Knesset. But a small group of passionate "Anglos" - in the broadest possible definition of the term - have decided to do something about it. The Jerusalem Post found five people who can be considered Anglo who have a good chance of getting elected in parties in the current Knesset (Please tell us if you know of others.) They may not all have been born in English-speaking countries, but they have raised their families in English, have spent much of their lives in America, England or Australia and they identify with the concerns and the unique challenges faced by the Anglo community. If one of them gets elected, he or she will become a rarity in the Knesset. The only real Anglo currently in the parliament is Knesset Finance Committee chairman Yaacov Litzman, who lived most of his life in Brooklyn but who spoke Yiddish instead of English. If the term is defined more broadly, there is Shinui MK Reshef Cheyne, whose parents are British, Housing Minister Isaac Herzog, who is of Irish descent, and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to high school in Philadelphia and college in Boston and brought his American mentality back to Israel. There haven't been too many real Anglos in the Knesset, but the ones that there have been have served with distinction. Former prime minister Golda Meir, former foreign minister Abba Eban and former defense minister Moshe Arens come to mind. The only two completely Anglo people running for realistic slots on lists of parties currently in the Knesset are Detroit-born and Chicago-raised National Union candidate Uri Bank and Australian native Guy Spigelman, who is running for a slot in Labor. But defining the term Anglo very loosely allows the inclusion of Ginot Shomron resident and Likud candidate Drora Galloway, who teaches English and is married to a Brit, and former Israeli diplomats to the US Zalman Shoval in Likud and Alon Pinkas in Labor. Bank, 37, made aliya in 1980 and has worked for many years as a political adviser for the Moledet party, where he serves as chairman of the Moledet Executive Board. He is currently slated in the realistic ninth slot on the National Union Knesset list, but he could move up to the sixth position if MK Aryeh Eldad carries out his threat to leave the party in the event that his own slot on the list is not improved. A resident of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, Bank believes that the only moral and just solution to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict is to declare Jordan as a Palestinian state. He is in favor of dismantling Palestinian refugee camps and relocating their residents throughout the Middle East. On matters of concern to Anglos, Bank's Moledet Anglo division has set out to build Western-style accountability in Israeli politics. If elected, he would push reforms to give voters better representation and legislation to force politicians to adhere to their party's platforms. "Democracy dictates that the constituency is the true sovereign so the politicians have to serve them," Bank says. "My office will cater to the Anglo community and we will finally have an Anglo congressman. But ideology is first and foremost, so all left-wing Anglos who believe in giving the Palestinians land shouldn't vote for me." Spigelman, 33, made aliya in 1994 from Sydney and lives in Tel Aviv with his Australian-born wife, Naomi. He is a hi-tech marketing consultant who took a break from an executive position in a software company to focus more on politics. He made a wise decision to become active in Labor Chairman Amir Peretz's campaign from the start. Peretz has spoken to Spigelman about a reserved slot for a young candidate that will be placed in a realistic position on the Labor list. But he could also qualify for an immigrant slot, which was 21st on the list in the last election. Spigelman edits an English-language Labor Party e-mail magazine and he has been active in serving the Anglo community. One of his most successful endeavors was a forum in English with Education Ministry reformist Shlomo Dovrat that explained to Anglos what would happen in their children's schools. "Anglos need a voice in politics and a framework for participating in public debate," Spigelman said. "They want cleaner government and they have a higher sensitivity to the environment and multiculturalism. The people leading coexistence NGOs are Anglos because we know what it's like to be a minority." On diplomatic issues, Spigelman believes in a negotiated solution based on the understandings reached by the Ehud Barak government with the Palestinians in Taba. Israel's former consul-general in New York, Alon Pinkas, has not announced his candidacy for the Knesset but he is campaigning in Labor and is expected to make a decision soon. Although a third-generation Israeli, Pinkas spent his childhood in New York, attended graduate school at Georgetown and worked for The Jerusalem Post as a military correspondent and analyst before he was appointed consul-general. He also worked as a foreign policy adviser and chief of staff to two foreign ministers, specializing in matters related to the US, American media and Diaspora Jews. "Substantively, nothing is more important to Israel than its relations with the US and American Jewry," Pinkas said. "It's not something you just say when there is a mission from Indiana. It has to be strengthened, and not many Israeli politicians understand the importance of American Jewry. Pinkas is considered one of Israel's most articulate spokespeople in English. He said he did not know what specific issues are important to Anglos in Israel, but he feels qualified to help them. Shoval is running for Knesset with the Likud because he believes the next few years will be the most fateful for Israel, its foreign policy and future borders and he wanted to bring to the Knesset his experience and connections from his two stints as Israel's ambassador to the US. Shoval supported disengagement from the Gaza Strip, but his main motivation is to ensure that Israel maintain vital strategic interests in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Shoval is often in America and the United Kingdom. "I don't claim to be part of the Anglo community, even though I speak better English than Amir Peretz," Shoval said, en route to a speaking engagement at the BBC in London. "I would like to see the political culture of Anglo-Saxon countries here. I have tried my entire life to change the electoral system here, unsuccessfully, to be closer to the British system." Galloway, 46, is a native Israeli married to a northwest London native named Richard. An English instructor at the Open University and Ashkelon College for 22 years, she speaks to the children in English and to her husband in Hebrew. One of the original settlers of Ginot Shomron, she was elected to the Shomron Regional Council in 1985 and has twice run for mayor of Karnei Shomron. She is running for a slot reserved for women on the Likud list and she could end up taking MK Leah Nass as the only religious woman on the Likud slate. Galloway's main priorities include improving the image of Judea and Samaria in the general public, strengthening Jewish values and educational reforms to move Israel in the 21st century. She attended many demonstrations against Oslo and Likud events against disengagement. On Anglo issues, she says that Israel has to put more emphasis on bringing Jews to Israel and making the absorption process as easy as possible. She wants there to be more social events for English speakers, better enforcement of anti-smoking regulations, and ensuring that English speakers have access to TV and radio news in their language. Galloway has spent the last four years campaigning among Likud central committee members. She said she enjoys the personal encounters of going to weddings and bar mitzvas. "The most important factor to getting elected is personal contact with the central committee members," she said "They will have to decide whether to vote for a doctor of education like me or someone like [cosmetics queen and candidate] Pnina Rosenblum."

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