Rowdy English election debate in Jerusalem
National elections are coming up on February 10, 2009 so over 1,000 undecided Jerusalem English speakers came to the Great Synagogue Saturday night to hear what the major parties had to say for themselves.
I felt a little confused when I arrived, not sure if I had arrived at the national mah-jong tournament or a national debate, being that the average age of the crowd was somewhere around 82. Perfect constituents for the Pensioners party, too bad the party missed out on the opportunity.
But don’t be deceived, there was enough spunk in the audience to rowdy things up with a round of Jerry Springer-like boos and applause. Unfortunately, I would’ve liked to see more makeovers and girlfights. Maybe at the next English debate.
David Horovitz from the Jerusalem Post started off the evening by reminding us what happened at the previous Mayoral Debate in Jerusalem, and poking fun at the candidates: Porush for not letting his translator translate, Barkat for arriving late, Birron for being a politician for less than a month, and Gaydamak for being… well… Gaydamak.
David then let the representatives introduce themselves, followed by a few questions from the audience. I wonder why they didn’t ask my TV tax question (will you get rid of it?) Molly, I tried..
Here’s my take on each party’s performance. All this talk about parties makes me think we really should’ve gotten goody bags for attending. David Horovitz, if you’re listening…
Danny Ayalon – Israel Beitenu
Excellent speaker (former ambassador to the US). Very smooth and convincing about how we need to restore national pride and change the political system. He only got angry when Uri Bank from the National Religious party claimed that Yisrael Beitenu would give up parts of Jerusalem. Restoring national pride, you say… what do you say about the accusations against head of the party Leiberman’s daughter.
Dr. Bennie Begin, son of the Menachem Begin – Likud
He basically called out the current, Kadima-led government on all the things they are doing wrong. But I ask you this, Bennie, Whatcha gonna do? Why couldn’t you provide us with some solutions of your own. Oh, and notice anything familiar about the Likud website? Maybe this screenshot comparison to Obama’s site will help.
Uri Bank – Eichud Leumi – National Union
American-born and proud of it! I think he must’ve mentioned his American-ness at least 302 times and repeated the line “Vote for us and I will be your congressman” a bunch of times. I know we’re Americans, but I think we’ve finally caught on that we don’t call our Members of Knesset Congressmen. Perhaps he was playing the American card a little too much. He even said “When you vote eichud leumi, the best thing you get – is me” Very modest. Bank also affirmed that the next Prime Minister will be Netanyahu. Great, thanks for spoiling the anticipation! He then proceeded to bash Likud.
Dr. Tzvia Greenfield – Meretz
Tzvia is an ultra-Orthodox woman on the Meretz list, a liberal party focused on peace and social justice. She started out by bashing all the people who spoke before her, claiming they just go on and on about war and death. Here’s the confusing thing – Tzvia presents herself as Hareidi, but wasn’t Meretz’s platform in Jerusalem “Putting an end to the haredization of the city”.
Daniel Hershkovitz – Habayit Hayehudi
As to be expected, he also did a little bashing – of Uri Bank and his inconsistencies. His claim is that we should unite the land, the torah, and the people of Israel. Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) is a new right wing party, a joint party of the National Religious Party (Mafdal) and National Unity movements. A little English on your website would be helpful.
Rabbi Michael Melchior – Green Meimad
The least bashy yet, Melchior was a confident and powerful speaker who really cut through the crap and made me start paying attention. He said that no matter who the Prime Minister is from the 3 major parties – Labor, Kadima or Likud, they all believe that Israel should remain a Jewish and Democratic country, so they will pretty much handle Israel’s security in a similar way, and that 80% of Israelis believe there will be a 2 state solution. The real question is, what are the other parties proposing to do about education, social issues and the environment.
One of their slogan reads “all the other parties are fighting each other but we’re fighting for you”. It’s so true. All the other parties were so busy bashing each other that they couldn’t even get their visions across and they missed out, because I, for one, was in search of an leader who can see that Israel needs to be more than secure, it needs to be a place where people want to live and bring up their children. And for me, the only person who got that message across effectively was Melchior. And hey, if that baby is gonna vote for them, maybe I will too.
Avraham Michali – Shas
I have to be honest, by this point my ADD was fighting to take over, and Avraham’s slow and unenthusiastic English didn’t help much. So, I took it upon myself to read up on the Shas website after the debate. Unfortunately, there was very little English. What I did notice was their logo “Yes we can!”. Hmm.. reminds me of something very familiar. Also, you may want to get rid of the Drupal favicon. Sorry for being such a geek on that one.
Nachman Shai – Kadima
Nachman aroused the biggest number of boos from the crowd when he expressed his support for the disengagement from Gaza, and his willingness to go to the 1967 borders or whatever it takes to preserve the Jewish democratic state. Followed by more boos and his response to the audience, “enough already”.
Dr. Einat Wilf – Labor
Einat spoke confidently about her party’s focus on education, welfare and health issues. Also, she is all for higher levels of political responsibility and that the Labor party may sound boring but it is most definitely responsible. Later on, I checked out the Labor website – I love that a mini-Barak waltzes across his website and starts talking to you. It looks like he got trapped in the Willy Wonka TV shrinking machine and I could peel him right off the site and put him on my desk.
Are you still reading? 22 points for you.
And if you’re still undecided about which of the 34 parties to vote for, you can use the Election Voting Compass, a guide that asks your stance on several questions and then advises you on who to vote for. Thankfully, they offer it in the 3 most common languages spoken in Israel – English, Hebrew, and Dutch.
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