Dina Dayan, a self-described Haredi, Mizrahi feminist from Israel’s political periphery, wants to be Israel’s next prime minister. She is the dark horse of Israeli Labor Party leadership contest, currently taking on eight men in an audacious bid to lead the Israeli left out of its comfort zone. Though she has been excluded from primary debates, her straight-talking, aggressive, in-your-face campaign video has gone viral, amassing nearly half a million views on social media.
“I am your fears,” says Dayan, thrusting a finger into the camera as she rips into the Labor Party for “talking about the periphery, instead of letting the periphery talk.” Describing herself as a “Haredi, Mizrahi, un-photogenic woman,” Dayan is explicitly staking her claim as an outsider who represents the disadvantaged groups who Labor elites fear will steal “their” country. To restore the left to power, Dayan says it is time to put the needs of the country’s social periphery into focus, instead of “more of the same for 40 years.”
In the video, Dayan takes aim her fellow candidates for patronizing her instead of representing her. “I’m the neighborhood mom whose babies you kiss on the campaign trail,” she says. “I am your mufleta party,” she adds, alluding to the festival of Mimouna, celebrated by Moroccan Jews and the politicians who want their votes. “I am the mezuzah-kisser,” she says, recalling an infamous incident during the 2015 election campaign, when a left-wing playwright spoke condescendingly of “those who kiss mezuzahs.” In an earlier campaign video, fellow candidate Erel Margalit tried to capitalize on the outrage at the playwright’s remarks by saying that mezuzah-kissers should not be attacked but kissed. In her video, Dayan takes a potshot at Margalit for his patronizing defense of religious Jews, blasting those who say she has no place in the race and “simply needs a kiss.”
Dayan is certainly an unconventional candidate in a race that includes two former Labor Party chairmen, two retired generals, and two multi-millionaire businessmen. She rents her apartment in the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon. She became religious at the age of 28 with her husband (who is a relative of Moshe Dayan). She speaks proudly of her lesbian sister.
Dayan says she wants to win the votes of traditional, Mizrahi Israelis who vote Likud—and to do this, has stepped outside of party consensus. She has hired as her campaign team the political strategists behind the infamous text messages sent by the Likud in the 2015 election, warning that “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls.” And her campaign video sympathetically features a picture of the parents of Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier convicted of shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last year. She later explained: “[Azaria] is the result of a system that abandoned the periphery. His action was a result of distress, ignorance, and neglect, which causes political radicalization. And the left, instead of understanding the problem in depth, prefers to lock itself in its ivory tower.”
Dina Dayan insists she will “eventually” be prime minister, but her goal for now is more likely to win a Knesset seat with Labor. “If what emerges from the Labor primaries is that Dina Dayan enters the Knesset,” tweeted Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid, “that would be enough.” Dayan retweeted approvingly: “That would be enough.”
Eylon Aslan-Levy is an Israeli news anchor and political commentator. He is a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge and the IDF.