Israeli politicians feel kinship with Democratic insurgent Sanders

Michael Oren (Kulanu), who is the only MK who knows Sanders personally, expressed concern that he has displayed very critical views on Israel.

February 10, 2016 21:08
2 minute read.
Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a campaign event

Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The elderly Jewish man became the darling of young, first-time voters by displaying the energy of a 20-year-old, even though he was well past retirement age.

The above sentence applies to New Hampshire Democratic primary victor Bernie Sanders, but it also fits Rafi Eitan, who led the Pensioners Party to a surprising seven seats in the 2006 election. Eitan, like Sanders, galvanized young voters, winning much of his party’s support in Tel Aviv.

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“I feel comradeship with him, because of his energy, experience, and he still has a mind,” Eitan told The Jerusalem Post. “I am happy he won, and I think he would be a great president, but he still has a long way to go. I hope America will have the honor of having a Jewish president.”

Eitan, 89, said young people are more likely to vote for a charismatic personality. He recalled that he was 79 when he became a minister.

“It’s not that young people just like old people,” Eitan said.

“It’s that there are old people who have biting personalities and young people like them and vote for them. They have good radar for finding a good leader, and for young people, it’s easier to change how they vote.”

Joint List MK Dov Henin, who like Sanders is a socialist and galvanized young voters when he ran for Tel Aviv mayor, said he also feels close to him. He said he was not surprised to see young people get frustrated with what he called a corrupt capitalist establishment and prefer socialist values.

“Bernie Sanders tells Americans that the greatest danger to America is the inequality that disintegrates American society from within and creates hatred, tension and racism,” Henin said. “We see a generation of young people who are thirsty for a different kind of politics. They’re a generation that feels cheated, because they were told that if they study and be good, they will have jobs and wages, and they grew up and saw those promises were empty.”

MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Union) said she feels conflicted because, on the one hand, she shares Sanders’s progressive values and likes his battle against corporations but, on the other, as a feminist, she wants to see former secretary of state Hillary Clinton become president.

Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli said she also sees Sanders’s views as similar to her own, but for her, feminism must come first.

“I have nothing against Bernie, but I feel personally invested in Hillary’s victory,” Michaeli said. “It is important to have a woman break the ceiling made of glass, concrete and stereotypes, and allow people to see a woman as the leader of the free world.”

Michael Oren (Kulanu), who is the only MK who knows Sanders personally, expressed concern that he has displayed very critical views on Israel.

“He is willing to listen, but I have no illusion that his positions on settlements and Jerusalem will change,” Oren said. “His views on those issues are unfortunately closer to Obama’s than Hillary’s.”

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