Tel Aviv Anglos lean to the Left

'Racism can't be part of the future. We have to keep an open mind and negotiate.'

elections06.article.298 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Citing their family backgrounds, country of origin and core values as reasons for their voting decisions, Israelis from English-speaking countries and living in the Tel Aviv area seem to be leaning predominantly towards left-wing parties ahead of Tuesday's election. Avishai Goshen, 24, said he would be voting for Meretz because he agreed with their liberal policies, including better social conditions, equal rights for minorities and reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. Goshen, who was born in Israel and then moved to the United States as a baby, returned to Israel two years ago.
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This election will be Goshen's first time voting in Israel. He said many of his liberal views were from his upbringing in Palo Alto, California. He went to a public school in California where his friends included students of many different nationalities and religions. "Israelis don't always have that opportunity," he told The Jerusalem Post. According to Goshen, his exposure makes him more open-minded to similar issues in this country. He was also impressed with Meretz's campaign, he said, which he believed was more in line with his values because it focused less on smearing other parties. Mike Joss, a 46-year-old professional tennis trainer born in South Africa, also said his experiences in his country of origin would affect his politics. "I think it's important to understand that racism can't be part of the future. Coming from South Africa I know we have to keep an open mind and sit at the negotiation table rather than blow them [the Arabs] up," he said. Joss said he would be voting for Kadima because he thinks they have the most experience. He said that because Ehud Olmert, as mayor of Jerusalem, has already dealt with both sides, Arab and Israeli, he could help the peace process move forward because he understands the Arab and Israeli mentalities. Olmert's connections with the international community, something Joss thought Amir Peretz lacks, are necessary for a prime minister, he added. Stan Tannen, 58, disagrees with Joss and said Kadima's "middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy" approach to politics was not going to accomplish anything. London-born Tannen, who made aliya in 1971, said Kadima was a "massive salad" full of politicians from the Right and Left. "They just can't believe in the same thing. I just don't accept that," he said. Tannen said he would vote for Labor because he thought the party would deal with social problems in the country and their leftist leanings meant they would be willing to make concessions in the peace process, something he said was important to him. Tannen said many of his political beliefs got their start when he was a member of a Zionist youth movement with leftist and socialist leanings in London. Australian-born Lynda Berman, 56, said her politics also tend to the Left. She voted for Meretz in the past, but would be switching her vote to Labor this year. In the last election, Berman, who made aliya in 1960, said she realized her vote for Meretz did not have the effect she hoped for. "I like their [Meretz's] ideas but they don't have enough strength to have an impact or influence, so I don't want to vote for them again," said Berman, a Kiryat Ono resident. Tel Aviv resident Brynie Furstenberg, 55, disagreed with Berman. She thinks it is important for smaller parties like Meretz to have seats and add some "common sense" to the Knesset. Born in Los Angeles, Furstenberg made aliya in 1969, moved to New York for 19 years, and then returned with her family in 1995. Furstenberg's Israeli-born, kibbutznik husband piqued her interest in politics when they moved to Israel. She and her husband always vote Meretz, which she thought was the most people-oriented party. "They are a sane voice among a lot of people who are not so sane," she said. Furstenberg agrees with Meretz's policies to end the occupation and the idea of a two-state solution. "To be an occupier is the worst thing," she says. "It rots you from the inside out. Every day we are occupiers is a bad day." Furstenberg said many Israelis do not realize the good Meretz could do for the entire population because the country has become so extremely right wing. She said Meretz had done the most good in areas of poverty, employment and housing problems, but that many right-wing Israelis would never pay attention to a leftist party. She also thinks Meretz will do the most to better the situation of the Arab population. "It's still a Jewish state, but you have to give people equal rights," Furstenberg said.