Labor candidate struggles to enter Israel from US

Former MK Nachman Shai has been teaching at Duke.

Nachman Shai (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Nachman Shai
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former Labor MK Nachman Shai could easily pull strings and use connections to bypass the lockdown on Ben-Gurion Airport and enter Israel.
But Shai, who is the eighth candidate on the Labor list in the March 23 election, wants to enter the country like an average joe.
“I don’t want to use proteksia,” Shai said, using a Hebrew word for personal connections. “I want to get in because it’s right to let me in. I’m not a judoka or a singer. I’m an ordinary citizen, and it is wrong that I am not getting answers.”
Since leaving the Knesset two years ago, Shai has taught at Emory University in Atlanta and now at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Despite not entering the country to campaign, he still won the fourth slot available to a man on the Labor list in the February 1 Labor primary. Due to Labor leader Merav Michaeli’s insistence on alternating between women and men, he is eighth on the list, despite getting more votes than controversial seventh candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana.
The Supreme Court will rule this week on whether to enable Mara’ana to run, after the Central Elections Committee voted to disqualify her, due to her controversial posts on social media. In the unlikely scenario that the Court prohibits her from running, Shai would move up to seventh in the party that gets six seats in most polls.
After buying a ticket to Israel that leaves Friday, Shai purposely applied to enter the country through normal channels that he found online. A special committee in charge of deciding exceptions to the travel ban rejected him twice but never told him that there is another committee for appeals.
The first committee has been shifted between Likud ministers Yuval Steinitz, Ophir Akunis and now Miri Regev. The second committee, led by another Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi, has solved many problems of people who desperately need to enter the country, but getting to the second committee has presented a challenge.
Shai has connections with one of Hanegbi’s staff members, whose family hosted him in Atlanta. But instead, he will go through the legal procedures, as any citizen does.
“Forget that I am Nachman Shai,” he said. “I am Moshe Israeli, and that should be good enough.”
In more troubles for Labor, its tenth candidate, advertising executive Gil Beilin, wrote Mara’ana on Sunday, urging her to quit the race. He wrote that her presence on the list was costing the party too many votes.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz met twice over the weekend with large groups of Labor Party activists in an effort to draft their support. A group of activists who were close to the late Labor leader Shimon Peres endorsed Gantz.
"Blue and White is like the Labor Party I joined 50 years ago," said former Peres spokesman Yoram Dori. "It has the values that are important to me like security, settlement and equality. Labor went in a different direction unfortunately. Every day I find more and more people who agree with me." 
But Labor did have one victory on Sunday, when the Central Elections Committee accepted Labor's request to change the ballot that will be used by slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir's wife, Larissa Trimbobler. The committee removed "freeing Yigal Amir" from the party's name on the ballot.