U.S.-raised Kashdan Places 5Th in Yisrael b'Aliyah

Eli Kashdan, an American-raised immigrant and a former party secretary for Yisrael b'Aliyah was elected to the fifth spot on the party's Knesset list yesterday. Some 500 members of the Yisrael b'Aliyah central committee convened Thursday afternoon in Beit Hahayal in Tel Aviv, to vote for the party's top 10 candidates for the Knesset. Kashdan is the representative of the English-speaking community in Israel, and is expected to attract voters from the Anglo-Saxon community.

Party chair Natan Sharansky heads the party list, as the spot is reserved for him. Second came MK Yuli Edelstein (uncontested), followed by MK Marina Solodkin (who beat Ella Spiegel by 247 votes to 72). In fourth place came MK Gennady Riger, but the call was close. Riger beat the chairman of the party's Jerusalem branch by just 50 ballots.

Sharansky made it clear that he would support Ariel Sharon as prime minister. "As soon as the results are known, we will unite and everyone will work [inter alia] toward ensuring that Ariel Sharon remains prime minister."

Kashdan's success in the poll will strengthen the party's strategy to combat its previous image as exclusively for Russian-speakers. The party attempted to lure the English-speaking community to a widely-publicized event in the Renaissance Hotel, Jerusalem on Wednesday, and which managed to attract hundreds of enthusiastic supporters.