Voters are misinformed about Yisrael Beytenu, but when they learn what the party stands for, they often change their mind, Ashley Perry, the party’s UK-born candidate for Knesset, said Monday.
According to Perry, “when you get past the caricatures you find [Yisrael Beytenu is] the most appropriate party for the Anglo community.”
“A lot of people have one view of the party or [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman, and when I explain the reality, there is a lot of attraction to our platform. We’re one of only two parties that has written a platform, and the only one with a detailed platform in English. We’re not sitting on the fence,” Perry said. “We say what we stand for in a very detailed manner; you know what you’re getting with us. We have economic, diplomatic, and political policies and an overall worldview that is easy to decipher.”
Perry, 40, has advised Liberman and other Yisrael Beytenu ministers for the past six years and submitted his candidacy for the Knesset at the foreign minister’s request.
Two weeks ago, he found out he was in 20th place on the party’s list.
Although Yisrael Beytenu’s average showing in last week’s polls was 5.4 seats, close to the now-3.25 percent electoral threshold that the party supported, Perry said he has a chance of getting into the Knesset because of a combination of inaccurate polling and the party’s position on electoral reform.
Perry said the party is consistently undervalued by at least two seats in the polls – “we have a Russian element, and it’s been suggested that they don’t poll as well as other communities” – and that in 2009, the party was polling only slightly higher at this point in the election season, but ended up getting 15 seats.
The fact that about a third of voters are still undecided could benefit Yisrael Beytenu.
The second factor is that the party is committed to have its ministers resign from the Knesset while maintaining their portfolios, which could result in several people on the list being bumped to realistic spots. The policy is part of Yisrael Beytenu’s electoral reform platform and is meant to contribute to the separation of powers.
The goal of Yisrael Beytenu’s electoral reform policy is to have a presidential system with long-term stability, four to five parties representing major groups in Israel, governability, and separation of powers.
Yisrael Beytenu maintains its position that the electoral threshold should be even higher than it is now, with Perry saying, “it doesn’t matter what will harm us electorally; this is what’s good for the country.”
“In 2015, the system has outlived its usefulness and we are nearing paralysis. There is an average of an election every two years, and it will get worse before it gets better.
I believe almost all problems in our country – economic, social, and political – are because of our system, which doesn’t allow for longterm thinking or for ministers to sit in government long enough. Plus, ministers spend a large part of their week on Knesset issues from which they should be relieved,” he said. “Israel, probably more than any other country, needs long-term strategic thinking.”
If Perry gets into the Knesset, he plans to put his years of experience in the Foreign Ministry to use to push forward an increase budget for public diplomacy, in which he was deeply involved.
“Liberman likes to say that the total state budget for hasbara [public diplomacy] is smaller than the advertising budget for Milky [pudding].
With delegitimization and BDS, we’re fighting but not spending enough resources. If I’m in the Knesset, I will make sure the budget is massively increased for that,” he stated.
Perry, who moved to Israel in 2001, extolled Yisrael Beytenu’s work for immigrants, saying it is the only party founded by olim for olim and that aliya has been a central tenet of its platform since it was founded in 1999. He called for a greater investment in aliya, along with support for Diaspora Jewry.
“I know how much Liberman thinks about this issue and the Pew Report [on US Jewry]. He came up with an idea to build an international Zionist-Jewish school system of high quality. It cannot be that someone leaves Judaism because of financial reasons… [In many countries] good Jewish schools are exorbitant and many can’t attend because of the fees. That is part of our platform, even though it may not be a vote winner, because [Liberman] thinks of longterm issues. For Anglos, these are important issues because we have friends and family in the Diaspora,” he explained.
As for the ongoing investigation of party officials on suspicion of corruption, Perry pointed out that no one who is on the list for the next Knesset is being questioned for any possible criminal activity.
“We have a presumption in this country of innocence until guilt is proven, and we’re the only party that has never had a member convicted of any offense,” he stated.
Still, Perry said there “seems to be a pattern” in which party associates are investigated before every election.
Perry did not have an answer as to why this is so, but hinted at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest troubles, saying: “Whereas there are authorities who claimed in other cases they don’t want to release details, because it would impinge on election season, that does not seem to apply for Yisrael Beytenu.”
The Yisrael Beytenu candidate lamented that the election campaign, thus far, “has been about non-issues that have nothing to do with the election,” and expressed hope that more concrete issues will come up and improve his party’s standing.