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Jewish Journal

Israeli Consulate Election Celebration Draws Crowd

by Tom Tugend

February 11, 2009 | 5:47 pm

Adriana Martinez and Brenda Larios, two bright teenage students at Franklin High School, showed up at the Israeli Consulate’s election party midday Tuesday to scope out the issues and candidates in Israel’s elections for their political science class.

“I’m interested in international affairs,” said Brenda, who would not divulge which candidate she favored.

The two girls were among some 90 Israelis and Americans of all ages who watched two large screens at the consulate, as Israeli TV channels reported the exit polls for Tuesday’s election.

There was considerable surprise among the group when the polls revealed that Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party had pulled ahead with 29 or 30 likely seats, followed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party with 27 or 28 likely seats, then Avigdor Lieberman’s hard-right Yisrael Beiteinu Party with 14 or 15 seats and Labor trailing with 13.

Official results are not expected to be announced until Thursday, followed most likely by weeks of haggling to form the coalition government.

“The overall trend showed that the Israeli electorate yearned for stability and was less enamored of the smaller parties than in previous years,” Israeli Consul General Yaacov Dayan said.

For instance, the Pensioners Party, which in the 2006 election came out of nowhere to win seven Knesset seats, this time struck out completely.

Dayan and his wife, Galit, agreed that Israeli politicians had adapted some of President Obama’s Internet fundraising and vote-getting techniques. However, said Galit Dayan, the candidates failed to transmit the sense of value and hope that Obama was able to convey to the American electorate.

Yael Solomon, an Israeli ex-pat who runs an avocado ranch with her husband in Temecula, drove 100 miles to join the party. “I would like Bibi [Netanyahu] to win, but I won’t mind if it’s someone else,” she said.

Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark of La Mirada was relieved that Livni was the apparent winner, but, he warned, “She has a long way to go to form a coalition government.”

Among a group of Israeli ex-pats, the consensus was that their political preferences are farther to the right than the apparent election results at home.

“Israelis in Los Angeles focus mainly on the country’s security, while at home they’re also concerned about social and economic issues,” said John Levey, who works for the Jewish Agency.

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