(photo credit: PR)
Could Tel Aviv’s success in maintaining a positive reputation abroad during challenging times for Israel internationally be a model for the Jewish state? Eytan Schwartz, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Hulda’i’s foreign affairs adviser, thinks so.
Schwartz, 40, spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday from his native New York, where he went for a family celebration.
But he will soon come back to Israel to run for a realistic slot on the Labor list in the January 13 party primary.
“Tel Aviv’s model can be applied to all of Israel, changing its poor international image,” Schwartz said. “It’s not a fact that people around the world will hate Israel. What Tel Aviv has proven is that having a positive image abroad is doable.”
Schwartz is an authority on explaining Israel abroad after winning the 2005 reality show contest The Ambassador. He spent a year advocating for Israel in the US after winning the contest and continues to do so in his current job.
He ran for Knesset two years ago in hopes of becoming Israel’s first American-born MK in 30 years. He did not win a realistic slot, and Yesh Atid’s Dov Lipman ended up with that title.
Schwartz’s father lives in Washington, DC, not far from where Lipman was raised. His sister and brother live in New York. His wife is from Israel but her father was born in Cleveland.
“My family represents the new blend, with different parts living in different parts of the world,” he said.
In his job, he has worked together with young immigrants from English speaking countries to make Tel Aviv the number one destination for young western Jews to move to.
“Here they can have an urban western life and a pluralist Jewish scene without giving up the lifestyles they enjoyed in New York, Paris, or London,” Schwartz said. “Westerners are now coming to Tel Aviv more than Russians and Ethiopian immigrants. It competes with New York, and London, not other cities. It has also passed up Netanya for French Jews.”
Schwartz has focused on job creation and connecting Anglo immigrants, many of whom are overqualified for jobs but do not know their way around the market. He has also been recruiting them to Labor.
His chances of entering the Knesset improve with the past week’s retirement of veteran MKs Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Avishay Braverman. But Labor leader Isaac Herzog did not help him when he reserved six slots for candidates from former minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua.
“I wasn’t happy about the reserved seats, but without them, the party’s situation would be worse and my personal sitation wouldn’t be better, so you have to deal with the cards you’re dealt,” he said. “Labor is a place where Livni - a candidate with no horizon - became a candidate for prime minister. I hope some of her magic runs off on me too. Anything can happen.”