Feb. 5, 2009
Max Socol , THE JERUSALEM POST
With Tuesday's election fast approaching, Uri Bank appears to have successfully positioned himself to join the next Knesset as a National Union MK.
Bank, 40, a member of Moledet who lives in Neveh Daniel, in Gush Etzion, with his wife and three children, made aliya from Chicago when he was 12 and stayed when his parents left the country five years later.
"In between elections, there's this political culture where Israelis have no one to represent them," Bank said on Wednesday. "I've promised that I intend to bring a culture of accountability with me."
Recent projections suggest that the National Union will win four or five seats, although Bank said his internal polling now gave the party six mandates.
Those numbers are enough to guarantee Bank will become an MK - unlike fellow Anglo candidate Shalom Lerner, who, at a distant 39th on the Likud list (representing Effi Eitam's Ahi party), has the next-best opportunity to enter the Knesset. Lerner has lived in New York, Baltimore and London
Bank is No. 5 on the National Union's candidates list, but the party has agreed that if it wins four seats and enters the government, its minister would quit the Knesset to make room for Bank. They also decided that Bank would become the faction's manager in the Knesset if they win fewer than five seats and remain in the opposition.
Both Bank and Lerner are better positioned than the other Anglo candidates, who are confined to an assortment of Green parties struggling to get into the Knesset.
Bank wants to use Knesset vote as leverage to give the National Union more control over the future of the Palestinians. He remained unimpressed with Likud leader Binymain Netanyahu's Palestinian policy. "Looking at the past 15 years, we [the smaller parties] have proven ourselves to be the responsible leaders," Bank said. "We're going to be the 'Bibi-sitters.' He needs a group of people truly loyal to Israel to keep him in check."
Under the leadership of the retiring MK Benny Elon, the National Union has developed "The Israeli Initiative," which advocates the voluntary transfer of the West Bank's Arab population to a Palestinian state created from the territory of Jordan.
Bank pledged to continue to push the plan, despite Elon's failure to gain any traction with Jordanian authorities.
"I think I have a better understanding, like all English-speaking olim, on how to deal with the international community," Bank said. "Israelis are sometimes in awe of the international community, and they tend to capitulate in ways that undermine the security of Israel."
According to Bank, the National Union will resist such concessions, including to new US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. In 2001, Mitchell led a government commission exploring the origins of the second intifada, in which he suggested freezing all settlement growth.
"We'll be able to stand up to that kind of pressure," Bank said. "We'll say, 'Don't ask us to do something that you would never do yourselves.' And if [the US] does ask, the answer will be 'no.'"
Bank said he intended to make the National Union a central element in addressing the concerns of immigrants, from taxes to housing.
"I see myself as a congressman, with a constituency. I'm going to have an open-door policy for the Anglo community, with some mother-tongue English-speaking staff," he said.
He is challenging campaign territory held by the Likud, which has worked hard to win the support of Israel's Anglo population, using an English-language Web site and advertisements, and frequent political gatherings and rallies in English.
Bank hopes to challenge the Likud's entire governing philosophy, from a post within its coalition.
"As much as it pains me to agree with Shimon Peres, he was right that you can't just negate what your rival is saying," Bank said. "No one gave an alternative to the Left's land-for-peace plan. You can't win if you don't have an alternative."