There have been discussions in Anglo communities over the past week regarding the absence of an Anglo candidate in the election for the 24th Knesset. I believe that discussion is based on two misconceptions that I would like to clarify.
The first misconception is that there have been Anglos placed in realistic spots in recent past elections.
When Dov Lipman was placed No. 17 on Yesh Atid’s list before the elections for the 19th Knesset that was held in 2013, most analysts were quite certain he would not enter the Knesset. Yesh Atid was polling in single digits when the candidate list was submitted. Yesh Atid’s best poll showing was the last poll conducted before the election, which gave the party 13 seats, four seats from the No. 17 slot.
Everyone, most likely including Lipman, was shocked when Yesh Atid won 19 seats and Lipman entered the Knesset. Following a successful term representing the Anglo community he retained his No. 17 slot, which was not considered realistic at the time, for the next election and did not enter the next Knesset when Yesh Atid won 11 seats.
When Yehudah Glick was placed No. 33 on Likud’s list before the election for the 20th Knesset held in 2015, most analysts were quite certain that he would not enter the Knesset. Likud was polling in the mid-20s when the candidate list was submitted. Likud was polling in the low-20s in the last polls before the election.
Everyone, most likely including Glick, was shocked when Likud won 30 seats. Even with Likud’s strong showing it was only after the resignations of three Likud MKs over the 14 months following the election that Glick entered the Knesset. Following a successful term representing the Anglo community he dropped to No. 42, which was not considered realistic at the time, for the next election and did not enter the next Knesset when Likud won 35 seats.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh was placed No. 46 on the Blue and White list for the 21st and 22nd Knesset elections. She worked her way up to place No. 36 for the 23rd Knesset election when her list won 33 seats. It was only after three months that she took her seat in the Knesset as result of the Norwegian Law. (The Norwegian Law allows ministers or deputy ministers to resign from the Knesset but remain a minister, with their Knesset seat taken by the next person on the party’s list. If the person who resigned leaves the cabinet, they can return to the Knesset in place of their replacement.) Throughout the campaign, only a handful of polls considered No. 36 a realistic spot. She was left off all candidate lists for the upcoming election.
In January, Ruth Wasserman Lande, who was No. 43 on the Blue and White list, entered the Knesset following a massive wave of resignations by Blue and White MKs. She is currently No. 10 on the Blue and White list, which is not considered a realistic spot, as the party is not passing the electoral threshold in many polls.
ONLY TWO Anglos in the recent past were placed in realistic positions on a Knesset list. The first is Michael Oren, who was already an established national figure when he placed at No. 4 on Kulanu’s list in 2015. He had recently finished his term as the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. The second is journalist Caroline Glick, who was in the No. 6 slot on the HaYamin HeHadash list for the 21st Knesset, which was realistic at the time of the submission of candidate lists.
The second misconception is that there are no Anglo candidates running in a realistic position for the 24th Knesset.
It is true that Michal Cababia, who leads Yair Lapid’s outreach, is No. 29 on Yesh Atid, Jonathan Javor who leads Gideon Sa’ar’s outreach is No. 42 on New Hope, and that Yehuda Glick is No. 43 on the Likud list.
However, there are two candidates who grew up in Anglo homes who are running on the Yamina slate. The Bennett family made aliyah from San Francisco. Naftali Bennett’s mother, Myrna Bennett, was deputy director-general of the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) northern program. Naftali Bennett has held more political events in English over the past decade than any other Israeli politician. There is no political leader today who can better relate to English-speaking olim.
I WAS born and grew up in Skokie, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. I made aliyah to Bet Shemesh with my family the week before I started sixth grade. I finished my schooling here, served my country in the IDF and the first job I had out of the army was working with the youth group NESTO (New English Speaking Teen Olim). NESTO helped integrate Anglo youth into Israeli society and serving as its assistant director was among the most fulfilling times of my life. I have lived in Mevaseret Zion for the last 14 years.
I am currently serving my second term as acting chairman of the Immigration and Absorption Committee in Mevaseret Zion, which until recently held the largest of the Jewish Agency’s absorption centers with a capacity of 1,300 people. I have built a family with my wife, who made aliyah at the age of 29 from Providence, Rhode Island. We have four amazing children who are privileged to be the first in many generations to be born in the land of Israel.
As someone who has run Bennett’s English outreach for more than eight years, I understand that there are those who want their candidate to be an Anglo immigrant and not a second-generation Anglo. Some are looking for a representative who lived through the hardships of aliyah and understands them from first-hand experience. Some are looking for a role model who represents the values that they themselves grew up on and advocates for others to adopt those values. Some simply want to be able to communicate to their chosen representative in their native tongue. The common denominator is that Anglo olim want an address. They want someone to represent them in the next Knesset.
Last week I was placed as No. 16 on Yamina’s Knesset list. Two polls conducted the week the candidate lists were submitted, by Midgam for Channel 12 and Panels for Radio 103 FM, gave Yamina 13 seats. Additionally, this Tuesday Channel 11 broadcast a poll conducted by Kantar that gave Yamina 13 seats. What that means is I have a chance. Is it a high chance? Is it a low chance? That will ultimately depend on the Israeli voter. I have a statistically better chance than Lipman, Glick, Cotler-Wunsh and especially Wasserman Lande had before they became Knesset members. My slot at No. 16, when every single poll has Yamina in double digits, is more realistic than it may seem.
I TAKE it with great weight and responsibility that I may represent the Anglo community in the next Knesset. It would be a true honor to follow in the footsteps of my friends Dov, Michael, Yehudah and Michal, who all served the community well. When I signed my candidacy forms, I had goosebumps because I was signing a form that put me on the ballot with a chance to serve as a representative of the Jewish people and Israeli nation just 72 years after we founded our modern state following 2,000 years of exile. I bring with me the values I represent such as accountability, transparency and representation. If that isn’t the Zionist dream, I don’t know what is.
It is on me to convince you that I deserve to be in the next Knesset. I will be conducting many English language town hall meetings (most likely all on Zoom) to engage the Anglo community. Come with your questions, and I will be ready to answer. Bennett will also answer your questions in English, as he has done in all previous elections.
The question we must ask ourselves before we vote is which leader is best qualified to lead Israel out of the current crisis caused by the failures of the present government. Another consideration is which party will most effectively tackle and solve Anglo concerns. Vote Yamina to enable me to be your Anglo representative and for Naftali Bennett to form Israel’s next government.
The writer is director of English Operations for Yamina and No. 16 on Yamina’s Knesset slate for the 24th Knesset.