Pensioners a big hit in Tel Aviv

Number two, Yaakov Ben Izri: We're not in the pocket of any party!

elections06.article.298 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Few predicted that Gil, the pensioners' party, would make as strong a showing as they did. Exit polls gave the party between six and eight mandates, putting them on par with the NU-NRP joint list. Yaakov Ben Izri, number 2 on the pensioners' list, vehemently denied reports that his party had already begun negotiations with other parties on possible coalition agreements. "There has been no contact, we're not in the pocket of any party!" Ben Izri declared. Gil's social agenda is essentially that of Labor, Labor MK Yitzhak Herzog said Tuesday night, in response to the pensioners' party's unexpectedly strong showing in the exit polls. "Even if they surprised everyone," Herzog said, "Labor's platform is social-democratic." Tel Aviv buzzed with rumors on Tuesday that the Gil pensioners' party passed the vote threshold needed to enter the 17th Knesset. In the stage built by Channel 10 in the center of Rabin Square in the city's center, hundreds gathered to look at the parties' stalls. The general consensus seemed to be that "Tel Aviv was voting for the pensioners." In front of one Tel Aviv polling booth, four well-dressed trendy-looking 20-somethings tried to convince passers-by to vote for the pensioners' party. Though the activists seemed uncertain of where the party stood on issues such as defense and the economy, they said that as young, well-off Tel Aviv residents, they wanted to do something to help the "poor old people." They also acknowledge that it was a trend among youth in Tel Aviv to vote for the Gil party. One Gil supporter, Sonya Blikin, saying she was "voting for the pensioners because they're the only party with a platform I can support. Actually, I'm not sure what the platform is," she admitted, "but I know that old people and poor people are sitting in the streets, and I feel bad and I want to do something to help them." Supporter Beni Shaliv declared that "voting for the Gil party means freeing Jonathan Pollard." Gil pensioner's party leader, Rafael Eitan, who became a household world name following the Jonathan Pollard spy affair in the United States, has pledged to work towards Pollard's release from the Knesset. The former Mossad agent, who led the squad that captured Adolph Eichman in Buenos Aires in May 1960 Rafael Eitan became a household world name following the Jonathan Pollard spy affair in the United States. Eitan agreed to take full responsibility and resigned as head of the Office of Scientific Relations. Eitan has pledged to work towards Pollard's release from the Knesset. Some voters were leaving Labor for Gil. Tel Aviv resident Gal Zilberman has been voting for Labor for 15 years. This year, he said, he was voting Gil. "They say people leaving Labor are racists," he said, referring to claims related to Labor leader Amir Peretz's Moroccan background, but added that this was "just not true. We're just sick of the Histadrut [labor federation that Peretz used to lead] and all the constant strikes." This year Zilberman was voting for the pensioners' party because, in his words, he was looking out for his future. Back at Rabin Square, a crowd of teenage girls chanted "Save our grandfathers" on Tuesday afternoon. They said they had no official affiliation with any party, but had decided to come to the square at the last moment because "the old people need all the help they can get." Labor's Shely Yacimovich was concerned over the phenomenon. She expressed concern on Tuesday with Tel Aviv youth she had met who said they were voting Gil because, well, it was trendy.