Danny Goldstein says that he does not believe that English is the international language. Money is. Danny is eloquent and animated as he eagerly talks about his plan to run in the next Knesset elections in Israel expected sometime in 2013. How is the Hewlett resident going to run in an election in Israel from the Five Towns? Well, you are going to have to read on to find out.
While it true that Danny is from Hewlett, when he was a young child of seven, in 1971, his parents made aliyah and settled in Jerusalem. Danny went to school in Israel, trained as an electrician, married, and then settled back here in the States where he resided until earlier this year.
Danny and his brother Benny have formed the new Calcala Party which they translate as meaning the “Finance Party.” He is enthusiastic about the possibilities and feels very firmly that this is exactly what Israel needs to restore confidence in what he believes is a failing and crumbling political infrastructure.
Last spring, Danny moved back to Ashkelon where his parents moved from Jerusalem in 1973. So though the Goldsteins are as American as they come, their physical selves have now joined their hearts and minds, which have always been in Israel.
“I know the country of Israel, and I see that the people are suffering from a backward economic approach to life,” Danny says, sitting across from me before Rosh Hashana in the offices of the Five Towns Jewish Times in Cedarhurst. He explains that Israelis have been dealing with an antiquated economic system, and that it is way past time to have representation in the Knesset that can move things into the 21st century.
As examples of policies Calcala would adopt, Danny says there are quite a few. At the top he enumerates that Israelis customarily are paid once per month. The average Israeli cannot make it financially to the end of the month, so they are forced to tap into their bank overdraft which means they are paying interest on the money they are utilizing. Danny Goldstein says that if Israelis were paid each week and their weekly salaries would go to pay whatever overdraft they were forced to use, their interest payments would be dramatically lowered. The banks, Danny points out, are opposed to any changes, for rather obvious reasons.
Whether you call the party Calcala or the Finance Party, Danny says that there has not been anything like it in Israeli politics since the founding of the modern state of Israel. “Israel needs a change, and we are the change they need,” says Danny.
Another example cited by Mr. Goldstein is the matter of securing a mortgage to purchase an apartment in the Jewish state. He says that it is far from a simple matter, involving a great deal of bureaucracy, red tape, and hidden costs. “These hidden fees sometimes make it impossible for purchases to be completed,” he says. His party’s position is that all fees associated with closing on a property be revealed to the buyers in advance. Not such a strange or unusual recommendation, you might think, but that’s not the case in Israel.
So is Calcala a religious party? Well, both Danny and his brother, Benny, who lead the party, are Orthodox Jews, and Danny counts amongst his closest friends Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center and Irving Langer, a Village of Lawrence trustee. So, yes, it can be said that while Calcala will be directed to an extent by halachic dictum, that is not the essence or purpose of the political party’s creation.
Danny says that he is not suggesting that all of the problems facing Israel today can be solved by throwing money at them, but he feels that considerable progress can be made in a number of areas if they are looked at from a financial or business perspective.
Danny Goldstein says that if you want things to cool down between Israel and Gaza or between Israel and Syria or for that matter between Israel and Lebanon, loosen restrictions at the borders and allow people to do business. He says that once business is being transacted, people on both sides would look at one another differently. “Business will reduce the tensions and people will begin to see opportunities to make money rather than just look at Israelis or Arabs as enemies,” he says.
The thing that stands out about Danny Goldstein is his confidence that Calcala can garner as many as seven or eight seats in the next Knesset. Elections are scheduled for approximately a year from now, but there is a very good chance that they will take place earlier–perhaps this coming spring.
In the meantime, when he is in Israel Danny is busy meeting with members of other parties in the Knesset discussing philosophies and policies. They are trying to explore common ground where they can work together, speculating that if they are successful in the next election they may be able to serve in the same governing coalition.
Danny Goldstein talks about a meeting he held recently with Yair Lapid of the also relatively new Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party. Lapid is seen as a nationalist but has also expressed blistering criticism of the ultra-Orthodox segment of the population in Israel. Polls forecasting results of the election that was supposed to take place this year predicted that Lapid was going to supplant the power and popularity of the falling star of Kadima and become a force to reckon with in Israeli politics. The elections were called off when Prime Minister Netanyahu forged an agreement with Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz, an agreement that has since fallen apart.
Though Lapid is secular and Goldstein sees himself as a natural fit for the right wing religious camp in the Knesset, they were still able to discover positions they shared and common political ground.
One of Lapid’s main policies–as is the case with Mofaz of Kadima–was the matter of Chareidi youngsters doing mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces on an across-the-board basis. Goldstein’s Calcala party views this Chareidi vs army service from another and more practical perspective. “The so-called ultra-Orthodox in Israel do not stay away from army or national service for religious reasons,” Goldstein explains. “What is really going on is that they are staying away from the workforce because once they join the legitimate working class in Israel they are then subject to being required to serve the country in some fashion.” There is no doubt, he believes, that if this concept of a Chareidi class living off the government while not contributing to the country economically can be dealt with in some creative fashion, the Israeli economy would benefit and the crisis in the relationship between Chareidim and service to the country would fade away as well.
“People need to work to support their families and they want very much to go to work as well,” Goldstein says. The government has to legislate the removal of obstacles that both inhibit and damage a system that would otherwise work fairly well,” he says.
On the matters of peace with the Palestinians and a religious block of Knesset members in the next parliament, Goldstein has a great deal to say too. Back in 2000, he points out, when Bill Clinton was trying to sew together a peace agreement between Yasser Arafat and then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, one of the ideas on the table in order to deal with the so-called “right of return” of Palestinians to what they claim were their ancestral homes in Israel was to use money as a key ingredient to break that stalemate. The Clinton proposal was to offer $250,000 to any Palestinian family that waived this so-called right to their alleged home in Israel. Had this been accepted, it would have meant that this aspect of the peace process would have cost as much as $200 billion when you calculate the Arafat-era proclivity to fraud and overall misrepresentation.
That proposal is now a thing of the past, but the point is to take note of how money can change the attitudes of the parties involved no matter what the nature of the dispute is.
The right wing-oriented religious parties in Israel are today a formidable block of some 25 to 30 seats in the Knesset. If there would not be such a significant number of disputes and disagreements (mostly about money) amongst them, they would be able to get a lot more done. Goldstein hopes to serve as both a cohesive and organizing agent toward this objective.
Danny Goldstein says that if his idea catches the fancy of the Israeli electorate, Calcala can garner as many as seven or eight seats in the next Knesset. Frankly it is difficult to fathom that Israelis will adapt such a departure from their usual voting patterns no matter how antiquated they may be. In the meantime Danny Goldstein is spending the yom tov season here in New York spreading the word and guess what else–raising money to mount a serious campaign back home in Israel.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.