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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
New Rochelle, New York native and Jerusalem resident Mitchell Barak has worked as a speechwriter and communications assistant for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an aide to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and an adviser to former finance ministers Dan Meridor and Yaakov Neeman.
Now he is running on his own as a Knesset candidate with the Likud Party. Barak, 38, paid the Likud's NIS 15,000 registration fee for joining the party's Knesset race in cash at the post office on Jerusalem's Rehov Emek Refaim ahead of Wednesday's deadline.
In a January 3 election at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Barak will try to attract the support of the Likud's 3,050-member central committee. He is running for a slot reserved for an immigrant, which will be placed no lower than 33rd on the list. Four other candidates are running for the slot, all of whom are from the former Soviet Union.
Although the slot does not appear realistic with the Likud floundering in the polls, Barak said that things change quickly in politics and he is confident that he will be elected. Barak's campaign will focus on three issues: improving Israel's international public relations, encouraging aliya from Western countries and Diaspora relations.
"Now is the time to rally around the flag in the Likud," Barak said. "The Likud needs people who could broaden its base and make the list less provincial. I think it's important to have an Anglo candidate with an Anglo agenda. The people who have immigrated here are an important sector of society, they have contributed a lot and they deserve a voice."
A graduate of George Washington University in Washington, DC, Barak worked on Capitol Hill for the Republican Jewish Coalition before moving to Israel in January 1991. He currently serves as the managing director and co-founder of Kidron Strategies, a Washington- and Jerusalem-based strategic communications, survey research and political consulting firm affiliated with American strategist Arthur Finkelstein.
When he worked for Sharon, Barak was a member of the communications delegation to the June 2003 Aqaba summit. A Likud member since 1991, he worked for Binyamin Netanyahu in the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, the Knesset and the Likud.
Barak joined a list of Anglos running for the Knesset that includes American Uri Bank, who is ninth on the National Union list; Australian Guy Spigelman, who is seeking the 27th slot on the Labor list; American Yossi Fuchs, who is seeking the Likud's 34th slot and Drora Galloway from Britain, who is seeking a women's slot in the Likud.
American Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University public policy professor who was intending to run for the Labor list, decided against it because he "did not want to help [Labor chairman Amir] Peretz damage the economy."