Israeli Candidates Vie for the (Gasp!) American Vote

Explicit Appeals to Ex-Pats of All Stripes as Election Nears

Vote For Me: Labor’s Shelley Yachimovich campaigns in Israel’s election. Candidates from both sides of the political spectrum are making explicit appeals for the votes of American expatriates.
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Vote For Me: Labor’s Shelley Yachimovich campaigns in Israel’s election. Candidates from both sides of the political spectrum are making explicit appeals for the votes of American expatriates.

By JTA

Published January 08, 2013.
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Gimpel, Tal and Lipman hope to replicate American economic success in the political arena. Israel has not had an American-born member of Knesset since 1984, when the ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane was elected. His party, Kach, was later deemed racist and disqualified from running in the 1988 elections.

The polls show Gimpel 14th on the Jewish Home list and Tal 13th on Hatnua – on the verge of winning Knesset seats. Lipman, 17th on the Yesh Atid slate, is a more unlikely victor.

“My mother tongue is English, so I wanted to empower the English-speaking immigrant community,” said Gimpel, 33, who moved to Israel when he was 11. “They have someone they can turn to.”

While the three candidates come from different parts of the political spectrum, they agree that most English speakers care about strengthening the state’s democratic values and reforming its fragmented political system, in which as many as 15 parties may enter the next Knesset.

Tal and Lipman both noted that Americans, who come from a tradition of religious pluralism, also emphasize issues of religion and state and tend to oppose government support for haredi Orthodox institutions.

“In America, haredim have education, there are opportunities and they work,” said Lipman, who himself is haredi Orthodox. ”That issue bothers us more because we know there’s no contradiction” between working and being haredi.

All three candidates agreed that a common stereotype Israelis have of American voters – that they care only about supporting settlements – is false.

“Part of the Anglo immigrants are right-wing religious, but a large percentage are not,” Tal said.

Lipman added that English speakers are “very much in line with mainstream Israel” and, like a majority of Israelis, are prioritizing economic issues in this election.


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