If the melding of glamorous good looks and nutty right-wing politics hasn’t quite paid off in the United States—sorry about that, soon-to-be-former-Gov. Palin—in Israel, it’s a marriage of electoral convenience made in heaven. The Forward this week profiles Anastasia Michaeli Samuelson, a Russian-born convert to Judaism and a former beauty queen who was this year elected to the Knesset on the Yisrael Beiteinu ticket; that would be the party that wants to implement citizen loyalty oaths and ban Arab parties that were opposed to last winter’s Gaza offensive. (“Another soldier,” writer Netty Gross quotes Samuelson as saying, as the M.K. pats her pregnant belly. The unborn roughneck will be her eighth.) And Samuelson—who the Forward says resembles Sigourney Weaver, though the photo renders her as more of a young Julie Andrews—isn’t Yisrael Beiteinu’s only honey: her fellow M.K. Orli Levy, a former model, is nothing less than a Zionist Marisa Tomei. These are resume points that no doubt contributed to Yisrael Beiteinu’s electoral success, particularly in a land known for squaring sexuality and nationalism.
But here’s the big difference between Samuelson and Sarah Palin: Samuelson’s base is deeply committed to cleaving the state from the synagogue, so as to allow for more progressive domestic legislation (at least for Jews), such as civil marriage—the only means by which many Russian Israelis can get married. Though Yisrael Beiteinu allies cynically with Shas and other Orthodox parties as part of Bibi’s grand coalition, it is not in itself a religious party. Palin’s base, however much its male contingent may pant in private over its matriarch’s ability fill out a pair of high-heels, is still very deeply socially conservative and ostentatiously pious. Her cultivated role as a sex kitten populist for the GOP was thus always freighted with a stark personal-is-the-political contradiction. But that’s a problem that seldom afflicts right-wing women pols in Israel and Europe. Anyone else recall Maxim’s “Women of the IDF” spread?
Israel’s Politician as Super Woman [Forward]