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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Many Israelis, and especially politicians, speak fluent or proficient English, but Lipman said English-speaking voters can identify particularly well with native English-speaking candidates.

“Your English can be as good as you want it to be, but if you’re coming from America you can connect with immigrants in a much better way,” he said. “My passion to make Israel great is driven by us being relatively new.”

American candidates also come with American quirks. Tal plays fiddle in a bluegrass band. Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, whose parents are American, loves the film “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Although Anglo political influence is on the rise, it’s unclear if English speakers will follow in the footsteps of Russian immigrants, who formed their own powerful Knesset party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor who is now a fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, said that English speakers have historically tried to blend into mainstream Israeli society rather than form their own distinct culture.

“There was always this kind of American immigrant zeal to be truly Israeli and out-Hebraicize the Hebraists,” Troy said. “There’s a lot of American immigrant feeling of inadequacy in our Hebrew, so you try to overcompensate by not acknowledging that you’re a separate community.”

Gimpel said that Americans are eager to integrate into Israeli society because they came to Israel by choice, unlike Russian or Ethiopian Israelis, who were fleeing oppression.

“If Americans were interested in themselves they would have stayed in America,” he said. “They want what’s best for Israel.”


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