Angling for Anglos

What are the political parties doing to attract English-speaking voters? And why?

man voting 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
man voting 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nearly every Israeli political party is actively trying to attract the votes of native English speakers. Many have set up English Web sites and are holding regular parlor meetings in the language. Some even have native English-speaking Knesset candidates.
The effort being put into attracting Anglo votes is nowhere near the exertion devoted to Israel's Russian-speaking population, with good reason. The votes of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their children are said to be worth anywhere between 15 and 20 Knesset seats.
Russian-speakers are also being courted because they have a high percentage of undecided voters, and because the party supported by most Russian-speakers has won every Israeli election since the mass influx of Russians immigrants began in 1989.
Immigrants to Israel from the United States, Canada, England, South Africa and Australia can only dream of receiving similar attention from their elected officials. But the political parties have let it be known that they value the votes of English-speakers.
Perhaps the highest profile Anglo in Israeli politics today, Philadelphia- and Boston-educated former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, decided this week to make a serious effort to attract English-speakers to the Likud.
Netanyahu appointed American Friends of the Likud director Ari Harow to form an English-language speakers bureau with candidates ready to answer questions from the international media. Harow will also be in charge of building the Likud's Anglo division.
"Bibi is someone who understands the importance of explaining Israel's positions abroad and that goes along with attracting Anglo voters," Harow said. "He knows that Anglos value his work as prime minister, foreign minister and finance minister and share his ideals. He wants to shine a stronger light on the Anglo division in the Likud."
Netanyahu has expressed an interest in attending a mass event for English-speakers in Likud. Labor chairman Amir Peretz is expected to do the same in his party. Kadima officials said that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is unlikely to come to such an event because he is busy running the country, but other top candidates would be sent to pound the pavement for Anglo votes.
The party that has been pursing Anglos the most aggressively thus far is the National Union/National Religious Party list, which decided to allocate significant resources to reach out to them, believing that there is a substantial Right-wing Anglo vote. They have parlor meetings almost every night and at the two Jerusalem Post debates in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, they gave away plants from a nursery formerly located in Gush Katif bearing the slogan: "The NU and you growing together towards the Right future."
The fact that such efforts are being made raises the question of why.
Unlike Russian immigrants, who represent a sixth of the Israeli population, the highest estimate of the number of immigrants and children of immigrants from English-speaking countries in Israel is half a million, and other approximations cut the number in half.
Asked why they were seeking Anglo voters, most party spokesmen replied that that there was no special reason, other than that every vote counted. Another questioned his party's effort and said that Americans living in Israel might have no more impact on this election than they did voting absentee in the United States.Harow said he believed otherwise. "The election is going to be closer than people think, and at the end of the day, the two seats that the Anglo community provides could be important come March 28," he said.
The model for parties that want to make a serious effort to attract Anglos is the 2003 campaign of Natan Sharansky's Yisrael Ba'aliya, even though the party won only two Knesset seats and ended up merging with the Likud. The party campaigned for such Anglo-friendly issues as preventing the taxation of overseas income, reforming the electoral system and making Sundays a day off from work.
Former Yisrael Ba'aliya officials said they succeeded in attracting 20,000 Anglo votes and winning a significant percentage of the vote in Beit Shemesh and some Jerusalem neighborhoods. They said it was the Russian-speakers who let the party down and that had the election not been advanced, the Anglo effort would have succeeded much more.
"I don't think [emphasizing Anglos] was a mistake," said Aryeh Green, who headed Yisrael Ba'aliya's Anglo division. "It was a smart move, because we were looking to break out of the Russian mold, and the Anglo community, which had a natural affinity for Sharansky, was a good first step toward attracting native Israelis. Every parlor meeting brought us votes, and Anglos felt that a party finally cared about them."
Green noted that parties actively pursue Ethiopian-immigrant votes even though the Ethiopian-immigrant community is estimated at only 100,000. He said parties should pursue Anglo votes because English speakers contribute disproportionately in many phases of Israeli society, are more politically active and vote more than other sectors.
"Just like Jews are wooed in American politics, the Anglos are the Jews of the Israeli electorate," Green said. "Anglos are educated voters who make a point of reading the parties' platforms. I'm surprised that the parties aren't wooing the Anglos more aggressively. It's a tremendous missed opportunity because they could be mobilized to a much better extent than they are."
Eli Kazhdan, who was Yisrael Ba'aliya's Anglo candidate, said the parties were making a mistake by merely translating their Hebrew platforms and sending English-speaking native Israeli candidates to parlor meetings instead of adopting Anglo issues.
"There shouldn't be an Anglo party, but parties should attract Anglos," Kazhdan said. "[Doing so] would force parties to focus on key Zionist issues they would have otherwise left behind. Adopting issues important to Anglos, like accountability, representational democracy and promoting Western aliya, could bring parties thousands of votes."
THE FOLLOWING is a guide to what the parties are doing to attract Anglo votes:
English Web site :. Has platform, contact information and the candidates. Candidates' CVs and the latest polls will be added soon.Upcoming events: Events with candidates are being planned for Jerusalem and Ra'anana.Anglo candidates: Harvard-educated Yochanan Plessner, 32nd on the list and American-raised and University of Chicago-educated Dan Ben-David, 34th. Neither candidate was chosen because he is Anglo.Anglo campaign manager: Yaron Sharaby.How you can volunteer: Call 03-929-8600.
English Web site: Has platform and Labor chairman Amir Peretz's speech at the Herzliya Conference. The candidates, slogans and more Peretz speeches will be added soon. Labor also has an English magazine called Revival that will be distributed by e-mail and in print.Upcoming events: Anglo campaign planning meeting at Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters on Sunday, parlor meetings planned across the country with candidates Isaac Herzog, Colette Avital and Rabbi Michael Melchior.Anglo candidate: Australian native Peretz adviser Guy Spigelman, 45th on the list.Anglo campaign manager: Spigelman.How you can volunteer: E-mail [email protected]
LikudEnglish Web site: Still under construction, expected next week. There are also plans for an English newsletter.Upcoming events: MK Yuli Edelstein hosted an event at Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters on Thursday night. Gatherings are planned for Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Ra'anana and the Modi'in-Hashmonaim area.Anglo candidates: None.Anglo campaign managers: Ari Harow and Revital Azulay.How you can volunteer: Call Revital, 054-546-5301.
English Web site: events: March 2 at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem with party chairman Yossi Beilin and former MK Naomi Chazan.Anglo candidates: Tzvia Greenfield, who is sixth on the list, lived in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.Anglo campaign manager: Sheva Frieman.How you can volunteer: E-mail [email protected], or call 03-692-5324.
National Union/National Religious Party
English Web site: platform and events.Upcoming events: Sunday night activist event in Beit Shemesh with candidate Uri Bank, Monday night parlor meeting in Netanya with Bank, Tuesday night parlor meeting in Beit Shemesh with MK Aryeh Eldad and Wednesday events in Hashmonaim and Ra'anana.Anglo candidate: Bank, who was born in Detroit and raised in Chicago, is 16th on the list.Anglo campaign manager: Ruth Lieberman.How you can volunteer: Call 054-489-1328, or e-mail [email protected]
English Web site: The party's Hebrew site,, will have English information in upcoming days.Upcoming events: None.Anglo candidates: None.Anglo campaign manager: Shira Leibowitz-Schmidt.How you can volunteer: E-mail [email protected], or call 09-833-1497.
Shinui and Hetz (the Secular-Zionist Party)
English Web site: links to Shinui's English-speaking forum, most of whose members did not leave for MK Avraham Poraz's break-off party, Hetz. has an English link that doesn't lead anywhere yet.Upcoming events: February 22 in Ra'anana will be the first of several Shinui events planned throughout the country.Anglo candidates: None.Anglo campaign manager: Judy Hanani for Shinui.How you can volunteer: For Shinui, e-mail [email protected], or call 04-627-0383. For Hetz, e-mail [email protected]
Smaller Parties: Tafnit, Green Leaf, Jewish National Front and Herut
English Web site: Tafnit: Herut: . Green Leaf: Jewish National Front: events: Herut is planning events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.Anglo candidates: Herut has four Anglo candidates in its top 10: Yisrael Cohen from the US in the fifth slot; London-born Eli Yosef in the sixth slot; New Yorker Mordechai Twersky in the seventh and Brit Daniel Pinner, tenth. University of Chicago-educated Prof. Paul Eidelberg is seventh on the Jewish National Front list.Anglo campaign manager: Tafnit: Mark Luria. Herut: Twersky. Jewish National Front: Eidelberg.How you can volunteer: For Tafnit, call 09-745-7521. For Herut, call 03-562-1521 or e-mail [email protected] For Green Leaf, email [email protected] or [email protected] For the Jewish National Front, e-mail [email protected] or call 586-1207.
United Arab List, Balad and Hadash
English Web site: Balad: Hadash: events: February 21 at Kol Haneshama synagogue in Jerusalem with Hadash candidates Hanna Sweid and Dov Khenin.Anglo candidates: None.Anglo campaign manager: None.How you can volunteer: For Hadash, call 02 625-2657. For Balad, call 04-645-5070 or e-mail [email protected] .
United Torah Judaism
English Web site: None.Upcoming events: None.Anglo candidates: MK Ya'acov Litzman spent part of his childhood in Brooklyn.Anglo campaign manager: None.How you can volunteer: None.
Yisrael Beytenu
English Web site: Contains only the platform but a revamped site will be up next week. has more information on the party.Upcoming events: Events planned in Beit Shemesh, Raanana and Modiin.Anglo candidates: None.Anglo campaign manager: Daniel Hershtal, a recent immigrant from Toronto, wants to involve Anglo community leaders in building the party's new Anglo division.How you can volunteer: [email protected]