The Pensioners party began its election campaign as a small party fanaticizing about winning enough votes to make it to the Knesset.
Only last week did the party’s showing in opinion polls improve, but exit polls results prove correct, the Pensioners are the elections’ big surprise, wining as many as 8 seats.
The party’s leader and former top Mossad operative, Rafi Eitan, watched the results from the party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv. When it became clear that he and his friends will have considerable weight in the 17th Knesset, Eitan said: “At this stage I want to thank activists and pensioners who accompanied us on a long journey."
Yaakov Ben-Yizri, who is expected to occupy a Knesset seat for the party, added: “Today we will not be ashamed to be elderly. We will not rest, not even a moment, until pensioners get all their rights back. We are reinstating the respect of those who built this state. A new era started today.”
A major factor for the party’s success was the support it won from younger members of the electorate. Eitan and other party members went as far as touring Tel Aviv coffee shops and restaurants to explain their cause and agenda to young people.
Meanwhile, supporters of jailed American spy Jonathan Pollard stormed the hall where the party was celebrating the results and rioted, accusing Eitan of being responsible for Pollard’s arrest in his capacity as a senior Mossad official at the time.
Meet Rafi Eitan
Eitan was born in Kibbutz Ein Harod in 1926. In 1944, he joined the Palmach elite corps and took part in dozens of operations. He was injured twice. In 1955 he completed a BA in economics and business studies at London University. He joined the Mossad upon his return to Israel.
A failed business adventure sent him back to the defense establishment where he worked with Ariel Sharon who served as the security advisor to then-defense minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Later, he continued shifting between the security establishment and the business world.
After leaving the defense establishment in 1991, Eitan set up a private company.