There is no doubting the Anglo contribution to the State of Israel. English speaking olim (immigrants) have stood at the heart and head of Israeli innovation, social projects, business, medicine and academia since before the establishment of the State.
And we do so with gratitude and pride. Of course we like to reminisce fondly about our countries of origin; whether it is Target or Tesco, Marmite or Vegemite (and don’t get me started on Sundays), there will always be elements of Israel with which we would tinker to provide a ‘home’ comfort or two.
But there is another area of Israeli public life that immigrants from English speaking countries have a great deal to offer from our pre-Aliyah experiences. That is political process and in particular electoral reform. Israel is a shining light of democracy in the Middle East. We often hear it, and we often say it, but it is worth repeating… so I will… Israel is a shining light of democracy. That said no democracy is perfect and, there have been many voices across the political spectrum that support a change in the party political system in Israel. They call for a move away from government coalitions of multiple, smaller ‘single-issue’ parties, and a step toward governments made up of fewer, but larger, more stable parties. This trend toward big-tent politics, as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon put it last week, would allow for a more “streamlined Israeli democracy”.
This is certainly the experience of the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. These are political systems with just a few, large parties, able to adopt popular approaches to ad hoc issues as they arise, yet stay true to the crucial ideology of the party. They produce – in the main – governments able to rule by stable majority without the need for overtly complex coalition deals that often constrain government’s ability to pass legislation, and enact the change for which they have been mandated. This also offers a more stable opposition with checks and balances to ensure accountable governance.
We must find a solution to the problems in the system that has meant there have been 11 transport ministers, and a further 11 housing ministers in the last 15 years alone! What policy planning or long term development could possibly survive such upheaval? As more political parties appear in this election than even last time round, the situation if left unchecked, will only deteriorate further to a point nearing political paralysis. The introduction of big tent politics however offers the opportunity to ensure longer term stable governance, with set election dates.
Sadly, those on the Left of the center, have chosen to criticize this notion, instead choosing to remain entangled in tribal and uncompromising party politics that serves nobody – certainly not the Israeli people.
Conversely, Yisrael Beytenu’s central committee passed overwhelmingly, the decision to run on a joint list with Likud. Similarly, the party is reaching out openly to the English speaking community in Israel – with whom there exist a tremendous amount of shared concerns and ideals – notably, on the issues of Zionist and Jewish education, promoting aliyah and assisting new olim, championing social and civil responsibility as well as supporting electoral reform.
Accordingly Yisrael Beytenu is the only party which has inside the party organization, a permanent English speaking division – not just during elections, whose job does not end the day after the elections, but who continue to promote issues close the Anglo community’s heart throughout the Knesset term. The application to apply for candidacy for the Knesset list has been posted in English, and the new campaign video has been produced with English subtitles (as well as Spanish, Russian and French at the touch of the captions button) – all alongside the party’s Hebrew output.
I know from the first few weeks of the campaign, there are many Israeli Anglos who are unsure of what Yisrael Beytenu stands for, or what legislation and policies the party has engineered over the past four years. I am happy to answer these questions – come find us on Facebook and watch out for our Anglo events taking place across the country in the next weeks… but in the meantime… click here!