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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Despite predictions that Detroit-born Uri Bank, 5th on the National Union's candidates list, would win a Knesset seat in Tuesday's election, no Anglos made the cut.
Not even adopted-Anglo Einat Wilf, who was 14th on Labor's list, took a seat. Recent immigrant Danny Hershtal, from Canada, sent out an e-mail appealing to his Anglo-constituency on Election Day, but was also stymied.
During the campaign, the Likud made a push for Anglo support. It launched a Web site and held events geared to native English speakers. Despite the quartet of Anglo candidates on the party's list, none got in.
On January 31 at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, candidates from nine parties pledged to address Anglos' concerns. But as Tuesday's elections results came in, English speakers were left asking who will address their needs.
The Anglo community needs to be represented and I intend to be that representation," Bank pledged.
He still believes that his chances of gaining a seat in the legislature are good, thanks to a deal reached within the National Union, according to which if it wins four seats (it did), and Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu names party head Yaakov Katz to his cabinet, Katz will resign from the Knesset and Bank will take his seat.
The National Union, which Bank told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday plans to be "at the forefront of aliya issues," believes these are not about the actual act of immigration, but the process of absorption that comes after.
"We have to encourage aliya," he said, "but nobody realizes that we also have to do much better on the absorption side. It's not just a question of Nefesh B'Nefesh doing all the work."
Bank's party plans to address key obstacles faced by new olim. The National Union Party will lobby to cancel a 2004 tax reform that taxes income from abroad. Bank vowed that if they couldn't cancel the tax, his party would ask for it to be imposed only on immigrants who came after the reform was put into place.
"It's unjust. These people planned on spending a certain amount of money and then they had to pay more. You can't just place a tax reform on people retroactively," he said.
Bank also plans to address the issue of accreditation and licensing. "Is your knowledge of the human body any less because now you have to speak in Hebrew?" he asked. "It's ridiculous that olim have all this experience and yet they are subjected to months and months of 'internships.'"
Bank, who comes from a "culture of accountability," said that if he was given a seat in the Knesset he would have an open door policy for all his constituents, which he sees as "the entire Anglo community."
Hershtal is also an Anglo candidate who failed to win a seat on Tuesday. As the 21st candidate on Israel Beiteinu's list, Hershtal is not in a position to gain a seat, but has pledged to stay involved with the party specifically to advocate for the Anglo community.
"There are stumbling blocks that stop olim from coming or staying," he told the Post on Wednesday. "And Israel Beiteinu has always been in favor of reducing the bureaucracy faced by those making aliya."
Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman was helping to privatize inefficient government monopolies, Hershtal said. "There needs to be a level playing field for olim," he said. "The government needs to allow for more competition."
Hershtal also said his party would be working closely with groups like Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami, which aid people in the immigration process and their transition into Israeli society. Danny Ayalon, who became an Israel Beiteinu MK on Tuesday, is former co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Another Anglo candidate, Alon Tal from North Carolina, was third on the Green Movement-Meimad's list, but the party did not reach the 2 percent threshold to make it into the Knesset.
Wilf of Labor, who also failed to win a seat in the Knesset, was also expected to advocate for Anglo-issues. Although Israeli-born, Wilf, who was educated at both Harvard and Cambridge, was embraced by the English-speaking community after an appearance at the Anglo event at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue in January.
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