Torontonian running for spot on Israel Beiteinu list

Six years after immigrating to Israel from Canada, Danny Hershtal is planning to run for a slot on the Israel Beiteinu list in the upcoming Knesset elections. "I was innately Zionist," Hershtal, 30, told The Jerusalem Post this week. "I always felt that way, that my future was in Israel." Hershtal is the current head of the Anglophone (English-speaking Israeli) division for Israel Beiteinu. He also works as the marketing director for an electronics company in Nahariya and as sales coordinator for a high-tech company in Haifa. On politics, Hershtal stands behind Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman's territory and population exchange plan, which calls for annexing areas in the West Bank in exchange for Israeli Arab-populated villages. The plan would strip any Israelis living in those areas of their citizenship, he said. Individuals would be required to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel to retain their prior legal status. "It's thinking outside the box," said Hershtal of Lieberman's plan. "It's promoting a central plan that either the Right or the Left can support. It's clearly a national plan." Aside from his political vision, Hershtal's main goal is to promote aliya by providing better quality of life through an improved economy and education system. On the economy, Hershtal feels it is imperative that the government encourage entrepreneurship. Israel raises $20 billion annually through its high-tech innovations, accounting for about 50 percent of the country's exports. Hershtal noted that the performance of Israel's high-tech niche has risen greatly over the years and believes it is important to support these growing markets. In addition, Hershtal said, there needed to be a greater diversification of the economy in light of the current trend of monopolies on the markets. Hershtal, who has three children, also aims to improve the quality of the country's education. Schools have suffered in past years from overcrowding in classrooms and lack of funding, growing strained due to the country's four-system education policy. "I want to reverse the [fluctuating] trend in Israel's educational performance... by using a system which allows parents to choose the schools they want their children to go to," he said. "I think overcrowding is part of a larger problem. Principals should be given more power over the school budget." Hershtal stressed that overcrowding was not as major an issue as the quality of teachers. On the Israel Beiteinu Web site, the party states it will "develop a merit incentive system for teachers, based on the improvement of their students." Hershtal lives with his family in Haifa's Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood. The Israel Beiteinu primary is scheduled to take place sometime between December 14 and 18. A list is expected by December 21.