An Israeli Supermodel's Bid For Knesset

Never mind the two front runners for prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni. Israelis are chattering about Orly Levy, 35, a former fashion model running for Parliament from the state's hard-right Israel Beitenu Party. Wags have made quick work of her campaign; Israel's version of "Saturday Night Live" mocked her as a dilettante, and even Levy admits her résumé is thin. "I have no political experience at all," she told NEWSWEEK. "This would be like Paris Hilton going to the Senate," says author and filmmaker Etgar Keret. "You could make a reality show about this."

According to the latest polls, Levy's ultranationalist party is surging, and could win as many as 18 seats in Israel's Knesset on Tuesday. Led by Russian émigré Avigdor Lieberman, the party has capitalized on Israel's bellicose postwar mood, snatching votes away from both hawks like Netanyahu and doves like Livni. Lieberman probably won't get enough votes to be prime minister. But he may well be a kingmaker—good news for Levy. In Israel, voters cast their ballots for parties, not candidates; because Levy is high on Lieberman's list (No. 6), she's all but certain to get a Parliament spot.

Levy isn't a political neophyte. Her father, David, is a former Israeli foreign minister. "I grew up in a political household," she says. "I know how politics works." She also studied law as an undergraduate and has hosted local TV shows. And for what it's worth, she gets good marks from her job references at the Hagara fashion house, where she spent the last two seasons posing for catalogs and magazine ads. "Orly has a nice face, she's beautiful, she's happy all the time," says Malci Yazdi, the company's marketing manager. What about political experience? "Sometimes experience isn't the most important thing," Yazdi says.

For dovish Israelis, Levy's résumé isn't the problem—it's her party's hard-line views. Lieberman, 50, a former nightclub bouncer, regularly rails against coexistence with Israel's Arab population. "He's like our own Cossack," says Keret. "He's the guy who comes to town, burns it down and rapes the women." The party boss "is not a racist," says Levy. Still, "I think some of the population is not loyal to the Israeli flag." The polls suggest more and more Israelis agree—a troubling fashion trend, indeed.

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