U of C grad misses seat in Israeli parliament

By Kim Velsey

Dan Ben-David, a professor at Tel-Aviv University and University of Chicago graduate, failed to win a seat in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, following Tuesday’s elections. Ben-David, who ran on the Kadima ballot, was a first-time political candidate.

After leaving right-wing political party Likud in November of 2005, Arik Sharon formed Kadima, a centrist party that has quickly become the most influential party in Israel. Kadima won the largest number of parliamentary seats in Tuesday’s elections: 28 out of 120.

In Israel, individuals vote for a party, and parties are awarded a number of seats depending on the percentage of votes that they receive. Each party has a list of members, and the top members receive seats first. As this was Ben-David’s first political candidacy, his position on Kadima’s list was 34 out of 51, which was insufficient to win him a seat in parliament.

Ben-David received his doctorate in economics at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Robert Lucas, Nobel Laureate in economics.

Ben-David currently holds a professorship in Economics at Tel-Aviv University and writes a regular column for Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

Ben-David has divided much of his life between the U.S. and Israel, moving to Ithaca at the age of five and returning to Israel in his late teens to serve in the army and attend college.

He said his time spent in America influenced his decision to become involved in politics.

“I learned in grade school in America that if you think there is a problem, you should go to the government and try to fix it,” Ben-David told Israel 21C, a news web site.

Although Ben-David failed to win a seat in the Knesset, he will remain active in Kadima, helping to write the party’s socioeconomic platform.

In an interview with Israel 21C, he voiced an awareness of his role as a neophyte in Israeli politics but expressed optimism about the future.

“Israel is an open-minded country where ordinary people have the power to change things for the better,” he said. “The fact that someone like me can come out of nowhere and make an immediate impact says something good for the system.”