Lev Spivak: "It's important for repatriates from countries of former USSR to elect their representatives to city councils of Israel"
Israel will hold municipal elections on October 30. Citizens will have to elect one of the mayoral candidates and one candidate to the local councils. Lev Spivak, head of the Israel-Azerbaijan International Association (AzIs), spoke about preparation for the elections and activities of his organization.
- It's less than two weeks before municipal elections in Israel. Will AzIs members participate in them?
- I think elections will be the main political event of this year in Israel. Our country elects mayors of cities, as well as deputies of city councils, through secret ballot. Mayors are elected by direct vote, while deputies of the councils through both party and independent lists. Based on the elections' results, elected mayor forms coalition with newly elected deputies and appoints them as his deputies. This coalition basically controls all municipal structures of the city for the next five years. Presence of strong factions, which represent interests of certain groups of voters, significantly affects decisions that the council and mayor himself make. That's why it's very important for us, repatriates from the USSR/CIS countries, to elect as many of our representatives as possible to the city councils, so that city authorities would take into account our interests and wishes in the future. AzIs is a non-governmental organization, it cannot directly participate in elections, but we support all candidates from Azerbaijan.
- Could you tell us more about candidates-immigrants from Azerbaijan?
- Representatives of our community actively participate in almost all electoral processes in Israel, both as candidates for elected posts and as political consultants, as well as journalists covering these elections.
As for active participants in electoral process, it's important to mention Azerbaijani national, deputy of the municipal council of Maalot Tarshin, Arkady Pomerants, who's running for the post of mayor of his city. Current deputy mayors of such cities as Yoknam (Roman Peres) and Kiryat Yam (Adam Amilov) are running for their posts once again. They are included in the lists of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman. Michael Cohen (Abramov) is deputy mayor of Tirat Carmel, and there's also his right-hand man, deputy of the city council, Aviran Mishiev. Emil Tchaikovsky is on the second place in the list of candidates for the post of mayor in Nesher. If he wins, he will become deputy mayor of the city.
Two of our representatives are in the lists of the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu parties. AzIs board member Yosi Peisarov created and headed his own movement to become deputy of the city council of Or Akiva. All these cities has a huge Russian-speaking community, many people from the CIS countries, whose support is needed for all of our candidates. Their number ranges from 15% to 35% of the cities' population.
- Does AzIs support only Azerbaijani nationals?
- Mostly. However, there is a number of candidates who are not Azerbaijani nationals, but actively cooperate with AzIz and help us with daily work.
I would like to mention deputy mayor of Afula, Mikhail Barkan. The Azerbaijani Cultural Center operates in this city thanks to him. We receive a lot of support from deputy mayors of Acre (Zeyev Naiman), Kiryat Gat (Yakov Ifraimov), Sderot (Mark Ifraimov), as well as a participant of almost all our events and initiator of creation of the AzIs branch in his city, deputy mayor of Kiryat Bialik, Nakhum Rachevsky, whose team includes two Azerbaijani nationals, Adil Danilov and Sevin Hanukayev. In the beginning of interview I said that Kiryat Bialik and İsmayıllı became sister cities. Both Adil Danilov and Sevin Hanukayev are natives of the İsmayıllı region of Azerbaijan.
All of them and many more people, who I don't have enough time to mention (and I'm sorry for that), participate in the elections, and we hope that they will be elected and retain posts of deputy mayors of various cities.
- Do you participate in this election campaign personally?
- I live in a small town of Kiryat Ekron with population just over 11,000 people. There are just 5% of Russian-speaking voters in our city, and all our representatives count on them. But It's important to metion that almost all candidates for the post of mayor in our city are looking for support of the “Russian street”. That's why I, as a pretty famous public figure, received tons of cooperation requests from almost all of those who are going to participate in the elections in our city. However, I decided to support current mayor of the city, Hovav Tsabari, who also offered me to join his "Hetz" list. If we're going to be successful, I hope to become deputy of our city council.
- Why did you make such choice?
- Because there are only two options in life: to always be in opposition and criticize, which is obviously easier, or to become member of a team and try to help, improve people's lives.
- What issues can deputies of the city council resolve? What can they really influence?
- I will answer this question using example of my city (Kiryat Ekron), and I think situation is similar in all cities of our country. Thanks to current mayor, Hovav Tsabari, our city has been leading in competitions for the title of the most beautiful city in Israel for four years. It also shows best results in development of pre-school and school education systems. Quality of cultural projects has significantly improved, but specific issues of support and preservation of culture in the country still exist. I can help with that using ten years' experience of working with AzIs. There are also issues important for all residents of the city: gardening and maintenance of gardens and parks, lack of parking spaces, fight against ultra-religious preponderance and hooliganism. You can improve a lot if you have proper and active team. Basically, a good owner will always find something to fix.
- What are the most interesting events that took place this year in the AzIs?
- We held several significant events for us and for Azerbaijan in Israel, in particular in the Knesset. We continue to show Israelis beautiful sights and achievements of Azerbaijan. Two more cities, Ismayilli and Kiryat Bialik, became sister cities. With support of the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan and the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan, we organized scientific conference of psychiatrists, which was held as part of our program that helps to create professional bridges for exchange of experience. In addition, I would also like to mention delegation of observers at the presidential elections in April, led by a member of the Knesset, Konstantin Razvozov.
- Could you tell us about the AzIs' plans for the coming year?
- We have plans for this year. We plan to hold congress of our organization before the end of the year. Almost all Russian-speaking Knesset deputies have already confirmed their participation in this event. Next year we plan to develop sister cities program, as well as continue ongoing training of delegations of specialists, as well as journalists, that help to establish closer contacts between our countries. Basically, this what the entire work of AzIs is dedicated to, developing and strengthening of ties between our countries.