Anglo candidates: A history of failure

In the last decade alone, more than a dozen people who were born in the US or made aliya from America have run for Knesset unsuccessfully.

Knesset 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
If you ever want to stump your friends with a trivia question, ask them to name the three Knesset members in Israel’s history who were born in the United States.
No, not Golda Meir. She was born in Russia and moved to Milwaukee at age eight. Not Moshe Arens either. He spent his teen years in the US, but he was born in Lithuania. Binyamin Netanyahu? Don’t go there. As American as he sounds, he was born in Tel Aviv.
Your friends will probably remember the controversial Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was an MK from 1984 until 1988 when his Kach party was banned.
Yehuda Ben-Meir, who was born in New York, was a National Religious Party MK for 13 years, from 1971 to 1984, and served as deputy foreign minister. The third was Newark native Marcia Freedman, who represented the forerunners of Meretz from 1974 to 1977.
Amazingly, no candidate born in the US has been elected to the Knesset in 28 years. Since then, three Ethiopian-born MKs have been elected, as well as countless immigrants from Russia and the Baltic states. There are also currently MKs who were born in Europe, North Africa and Iraq.
Even when expanding the definition of “American” to candidates who moved here from the US after an extended time there, the only current American MK would be Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who was raised in New York.
Haredi Tzvia Greenfield served as a Meretz MK for less than four months beginning in November 2008. She was born in Jerusalem but lived in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
Netanyahu, who lived in the US for 10 years over three separate stints and was sent back as a diplomat for six more, could fit the definition of an “American” MK if it was stretched even further. MKs who moved to America to get a degree like Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) and Einat Wilf (Independence) certainly do not count, even though their English is perfect.
In the last decade alone, more than a dozen people who were born in the US or made aliya from America have run unsuccessfully. They ran in parties across the political spectrum, from native North Carolinian Alon Tal in the Green Movement on the Left to Boston-born Baruch Marzel’s Jewish National Front on the extreme Right.
The candidate who came closest to getting in was Detroit-born, Chicago-raised Uri Bank, who was fifth on the National Union list that won four seats in 2009. Eli Kazhdan, who was the centerpiece of Yisrael Ba’aliya’s attempts to woo immigrants from English-speaking countries in 2003, was born in Russia but moved to Boston at age three.
In the 2009 election, no fewer than seven American-born candidates sought seats with Likud but either dropped out or did not win realistic slots: Yechiel Leiter (born in Scranton, Pennsylvania), Tal Brody (Newark), Shmuel Sackett (New York), Yossi Fuchs (New York), Fred Moncharsh (San Francisco), Shalom Lerner (lived in New York and Baltimore), and Danny Seaman (born on a US Air Force base in Germany but considers himself a New Yorker).
Mitchell Barak and Mordechai Taub, who both made aliya from New York to Jerusalem, ran in other recent Likud elections. Former Chicagoan Dan Ben-David is the only American who has run in Kadima.
MKs from Canada include the late Montreal-born minister Dov Yosef (Mapai), who was in the first three Knessets, and Polish-born former University of Toronto professor Zvi Weinberg (Yisrael Ba’aliya), who was in the Knesset from 1996 to 1999.
Montreal native Dan Goldenblatt ran multiple times with the Green Leaf Party, former Torontonian Danny Hershtal has run in Yisrael Beytenu, and Rumi Zonder- Kislev, who holds a Canadian passport, ran in Kadima.
South Africa and Great Britain both claim former foreign minister Abba Eban (Alignment), who was born in Cape Town but moved to the United Kingdom at an early age. Shmuel Katz (Herut), who was also born in South Africa, served in the first Knesset.
The Knesset website lists three MKs born in England: Zina Herman (Alignment), who was an MK from 1969 to 1974; Tamar Eshel (Alignment), who served from 1977 to 1984; and current MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima). Former president Chaim Herzog (Alignment), who was elected in 1981, was born in Belfast (now Northern Ireland).
Herzog’s son, Labor MK Isaac Herzog, and former Shinui MK Reshef Cheyne, whose parents are British, are both Sabras and therefore do not fit this list.
British-born Daniel Pinner ran unsuccessfully with Herut in 2006 while he was in prison. Australian Guy Spigelman ran with Labor in 2006 and Gila Waksman, who was raised in Melbourne, ran in Kadima in 2009.
With only 10 MKs born in English-speaking countries in 64 years, Habayit Hayehudi candidates Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel have a history of Anglo candidates’ failure behind them and a difficult task ahead.