The Anglos are coming to vote

From the Times of Israel, a reasonable (if superficial) look at the Anglo scene in the context of the Israeli elections:

The debate moderator asked the candidates what their parties would do to prevent a Third Intifada, an increasingly common concern in the Israeli election campaign. In his answer, Jeremy Gimpel drew from his upbringing — in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I’m from America,” Gimpel said in English. “We don’t talk to terrorists. In America, we eliminate terrorists.”

Soon after Gimpel had finished, New Jersey native Alon Tal shot back.

“There are graves in the Wild West that say, ‘Here lies John Smith, who exercised all his rights,’ ” Tal said, also in English. “Do we want to find a pragmatic solution or do we want to be self-righteous?”

Tal is a candidate for the center-left Hatnua party, while Gimpel is running with the right-wing Jewish Home faction. They are two of a handful of American-born candidates at the forefront of an intensive push to win over English-speaking voters in advance of Israel’s January 22 elections.

Both Tal and Gimpel are, in their own ways, impressive. Tal clearly has a passion for green and environmental issues, and in that respect has a clear point of difference between him and the majority of candidates who barely, if ever, mention such matters. Gimpel is arrogant, but has the talent to go with it. Almost. If someone could take him to one side and polish off the rough edges, there would be a real future contender for the top of the political tree. Dov Lipman, of Yesh Atid, is also mentioned in the article. He is the one who has impressed me the most. He’s a modern orthodox religious Jew who wants to be inclusivist, and has faced up to the extremists; a real mensch. Unfortunately, he is probably too low on the list to make it into the Knesset. Tal and Gimpel have a shot of making it.

I thought this comment in the article was interesting:

While English-language campaigns aren’t new in Israel, candidates and observers say this year’s effort feels larger and more sophisticated than those of elections past.

It reflects what people who have been here longer are telling me. The question is: why?

“The English-speaking community is finally stepping up to the plate, as we become more comfortable and understanding of the system,” said David London, executive director of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), which co-sponsored The Jerusalem Post debates.

That’s a possible explanation. But why was there less of such activity in the past?

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 Beytenu. 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.”

Now that sounds a likely explanation. I don’t see an Anglo party in the future, not least because Naftali Bennett has done such a good job of attracting voters from that part of the population – religious and non religious. But perhaps we might see more policies in the future which are tweaked to appeal to the Anglo community.

Incidentally, things are hotting up in the mainstream election coverage, with Netanyahu and Olmert waging war on one another. It’s going to be an intriguing finish: given Netanyahu’s likely win, who is he going to forma coalition with? Since Bennett is his main threat, will it be a Likud-Left coalition? All to play for methinks.