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Americans in Israel Vote GOP

A poll shows that 85 percent of American-Israelis went for Romney. But some ask whether they should vote at all.

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iVoteIsrael registers voters in Tel Aviv (left) and Jerusalem. (Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo iVoteIsrael/Facebook)

More than 80,000 American Jews living in Israel—out of an estimated 150,000 eligible voters—cast absentee ballots for Tuesday’s presidential election. According to an exit poll released on Thursday, which was conducted by get-out-the-vote group iVoteIsrael, 85 percent of them voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. That’s an astonishing figure, especially given the fact that Jewish voters in the United States are voting the opposite way—going for President Barack Obama over Romney 70 to 25 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll.

In 2008, only 30,000 ballots were cast by American-Israelis. Some are attributing this year’s dramatic jump to the pressing issues at stake for Israelis. But according to most observers, it’s mainly the result of intense get-out-the vote efforts made by groups such as Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad, which have been sponsoring town meetings, picnics, and debates throughout the country over the past nine months. The enthusiastic turnout they’ve ginned up has made some American-Israelis wonder whether they should be voting at all.

Of these groups, none has been more active and effective than iVoteIsrael, which was founded in 2011. While the group insists it is nonpartisan and is registered in the United States as a nonprofit, The Times of Israel has pointed out that National Director Elie Pieprz used to be active in the Republican Jewish Coalition and, after immigrating to Israel, in Republicans Abroad. Other staffers have similar ties to Republican groups in the United States and right-wing groups in Israel. (The group has refused to reveal its sources of funding to the media.)

For months, the organization has been using social networking, community listservs, local publications, and door-to-door canvassing to encourage voters to obtain and cast their absentee ballots. Along with Republicans Abroad, iVoteIsrael has been particularly focused on religious American-Israelis, holding rallies and public meetings to instruct voters in religious towns and settlements in the West Bank.

“It’s a good strategy,” said Chaim Waxman, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, who now lives in Jerusalem. “The overwhelming majority of Jews who have come to Israel since 1967 are religious. And the religious support Romney and other conservative candidates.” The pro-Romney campaign in Israel got another boost late last month when Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, influential in religious-Zionist circles, wrote in the religious newspaper Besheva that “every American citizen [in Israel] who believes in God and his prophets should vote for Mitt Romney.”

Whatever its possible partisan stripes, if iVoteIsrael has its way, Jewish American expats in Israel—who make up between 20 percent and 25 percent of the absentee ballots cast throughout the world—will come to be recognized as a savvy constituency with real clout. “If 100,000 Americans living in Israel vote, then 10,000 or 15,000 of them are going to be in specific congressional districts or in given states. They will be constituents, not merely allies,” said Pieprz, the director. “The politicians will have to know: We are active, we vote, we are informed. I think we could have a very significant impact that goes to Israel’s advantage.”

According to Thursday’s iVoteIsrael poll, these voters could be particularly important in the swing states such as Florida, where 7,500 voted; Ohio, where 3,500 voted; and Pennsylvania, where 3,500 voted. They could also be crucial in highly contested congressional and senatorial races, such as Ohio, since overall, 62 percent voted for GOP candidates.

Yisrael Medad, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Shiloh and director of information resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, cast his vote in October. Medad, 66 years old, came to Israel 42 years ago from New York. “I am an American citizen residing in YESHA,” he told me, using the Hebrew acronym for Judea and Samaria. “I was born and educated in America, and I believe that America is the flagship of democracy, liberalism, and human rights. So, Americans should be supporting my right, as a Jew, to live here in the land of my ancestors. I believe that Romney upholds these values.”

Other American-Israelis feel that Romney stands for the opposite. Chair of Democrats Abroad, 71-year-old Hillel Shenkar, moved to Israel in 1963 and told me he came “to become an Israeli. Voting in American elections didn’t make much sense then, and I voted for the first time in 2004,” he said. “But now I believe that we are all connected in a way that was not possible in the past, and we are aware of the issues, domestic and foreign. And as someone committed to working for peace with the Palestinians, I am concerned about what a Romney victory could mean.”

Batya (Betsy) Kallus, a philanthropic adviser and human-rights activist who came to Israel from Massachusetts 21 years ago, similarly doesn’t see a contradiction between living in Israel and voting in the United States. “I pay taxes in America, and I feel very strongly that I am still an American. I care deeply about American domestic issues. That doesn’t negate my loyalty to Israel; in a global world, you can be involved in a society that you don’t live in.”

Not everyone agrees. Even though Batya Medad thinks Obama is “terrible for the entire free world,” unlike her husband, Romney-voter Yisrael, Batya isn’t voting. “I didn’t leave America in anger, but growing up, it was always clear to me that America was not a home for Jews, and I am first and foremost a Jew,” she said. “Americans living in America should make their decisions for their own sake, not for ours.”

Elliot Jager, contributing editor to the online publication Jewish Ideas Daily, has lived in Jerusalem for 15 years and maintains dual citizenship. “I have the right to vote, but I choose thoughtfully not to do so,” he told me. “I love the U.S. It is a beacon of tolerance and representative democracy. But I don’t think it’s morally or ethically right to vote in U.S. elections. I have obligations to the U.S. and I pay my taxes, but voting would be exploitation rather than an exercise of my rights. My physical and spiritual fate is here.”

“As a Zionist, when I came to live here, I disengaged from the U.S.” Jager continues. “It wasn’t just a life-style choice, it was a commitment. I don’t want to betray my Zionist bona fides. After all, Herzl and Jabotinsky didn’t go to their early graves so that I could exercise my right to vote in America.”

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Let me clarify a bit my quotation (the telephone conversation was about 15 minutes or more):-

Since Americans, through voting for their elected representatives on the local, state and federal levels, indeed do influence Israel, its diplomatic standing, its economy, its security and, through American history as well as the sympathy and identity of Presidents, Senators and Congressmen for the idea of the Jewish national home stretching back to John Adams, I think that voting, in principle and utlilitarian-wise, is correct.

Furthermore, I support an effort of American Jewish citizens residing in Judea and Samaria to organize and communicate with their representatives, as well as the Consulate officials, on a regular basis and not just during elections periods.

Judea and Samaria AKA the occupied territories. Thanks. Spread the hasbara generously. Thank you for the public service announcement.

PhillipNagle says:

The truth is that Jews in the US have faced a mammoth propaganda barage trying to convince them falsely that Obama is not anti Israel. The anti Israel nature of the Obama regime is much more apparent to Americans living (temporaraly or permanently) in Israel. Unfortunately we have too man Jewish politicians who have thrown in their lot with the Democrat party and don’t have the moral courage to face up to the anti Israel nature of the party, often bordering on anti-Semitism, specially by the left wing of the party.

PhillipNagle says:

The truth is that Jews in the US have faced a mammoth propaganda barage trying to convince them falsely that Obama is not anti Israel. The anti Israel nature of the Obama regime is much more apparent to Americans living (temporaraly or permanently) in Israel. Unfortunately we have too man Jewish politicians who have thrown in their lot with the Democrat party and don’t have the moral courage to face up to the anti Israel nature of the party, often bordering on anti-Semitism, specially by the left wing of the party.

Same idiotic thinking that prompted Jewish reporters to support Hitler and now up-dated fear driven brain dead people to support R&R. It boggles the mind.

Strange, I was going to write that the truth is that Jews in the US have faced a mammoth propaganda barage trying to convince them falsely that Obama IS anti Israel. No need to fight that out here, but as an American living in Canada, I still feel an obligation to vote, even though I will be applying for Canadian citizenship.

Jews don’t occupy what they already own – it’s isn’t called Judea for nothing. Me thinks you should change your first name, since you don’t have a clue as to the history of your namesake.

What a sad outcome. Israel’s continued move to the right, politically and socially, reports of it’s tolerance of intolerance, is most disheartening to those of us who love Israel, but disagree with much of the current government’s actions and inaction.

LtcHoward says:

BERNIE you are smug and intolerant. Unfortunately, you are typical of so many of the Jewish liberals that I deal with. Israel is a vibrant democracy. Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, etc. are intolerant, thug dominated. If you don’t respect democracy… and it appears you don’t… you are betraying the Jewish values that you claim to espouse. By the way the reports of intolerance by Haaratz were false and meant to paint Israel in a hostile light.

Bernie is smug and intolerant. I think not. You, on the other hand…

I find it very disheartening to learn that so many Jews have voted for Romney, a man who will say anything to get elected. He and his VP candidate, Ryan, are intolerant bigots who care little for any other than those who can enrich them. They will attempt to lower taxes on the wealthy at the expense of the poor, the disabled and the abandoned. Surely most Jews care more for humanity than this.

It’s because these people have one thing on their mind, Israel, and they have shown that by living in Israel for decades yet still pretending that they know what’s happening in the US enough to vote in our elections. They no longer live in the US, so they don’t have anything to lose from decreased social programs, degrading infrastructure, falling academic standards, massive deficits caused by completely unnecessary military spending, increased antagonizing of Russia and China, or all the other things that those of us living in America will have to deal with under a Romney presidency.

Scott Tennis says:

You know who i think shouldn’t be allowed to vote in American elections? People who have been or currently are receiving welfare benefits. Unmarried mothers who have never worked a day in their lives and have multiple children by multiple fathers. And most importantly, their should be a required intelligence test on basic issues and those failing should not be allowed to vote. And we all know which party has the most to lose from any of those regulations.

Ah, you read Open Zion? And you believe all that “there goes Israel’s democracy” shpiel?

Actually, the terms of Judea & Samaria are in the UN 1947 recommendation for partition when the boundaries are delineated. “West Bank” is the 1950 term adopted when a Saudi Arabian granted an emirship over some territory originally assigned to the Palestine Mandate to become the Jewish national home annexed – illegally – those regions to his new kingdom and figured he had the eastern bank so he might as well create a west bank.

who supported Hitler? who here is brain-dead?

rightcoaster says:

If Elliot Jager thinks it is not ethical for him to vote in the US election because his physical and spiritual fate lies in Israel, why does he maintain dual citizenship?

judahdan says:

The reason most Americans living in Israel vote for Romney is not because of a better organized Romney campaign. It is because most Americas living, or currently moving to Israel, tend to be conservative. Most are religiously observant or traditional.

Most Jews living in America and voting for Romney fall into the same category.

Obama supports Israel – however, he supports an Israel that stays close to the 67 lines and an Israel he believes is mostly responsible for any lack of progress in the so-called “peace-process”.

Romney supports Israel, period. He also knows the real reason why progress is not and will not be made. The day that Arabs embrace democracy, freedom and truth, peace will prevail in the Middle East.

Daniel
Moshav Eshtaol

Suzy Lenkowsky says:

If an American is LIVING in another country they should not be voting in our elections. It is no longer THEIR election and they won’t be forced to live under the policies they are voting for. They are one issue voters and don’t give a damn about what the other policies will do to us.

leucippe says:

YOu haven’t a clue as to what Romney supports. He blows in the wind, wherever and whenever he thinks it expedient. And, as far as his foreign policy creds are concerned, don’t forget he thinks that Syria gives Iran a path to the sea.

herbcaen says:

Ms Gibson probably doesnt think that I should vote either, given that I reside in redstate America and will not be voting for the anointed one. I am not voting for the anointed one for the following reasons
1) I am not better off than I was 4 years ago, and no one I know is better off than they were 4 years ago
2) Obamacare has removed $500 billion dollars from Medicare
3) Obama has put daylight between the US and Israel
4) Obama has given Iran 4 extra years to build nuclear weapons
5) Obama believes that all personal wealth is stolen and must be re-distributed. His target are people making between 150K and 1000K yearly. Anyone making more than that has their money abroad
6) Obamacare has made people less likely to start small businesses
7) Obama was harder on Mubarak than Ahmadinejad

Bruce Glassman says:

Not that it matters at this point in time but I recommend reading the following article about IVoteIsrael: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/11/ivoterepublican.html.

I can see why someone would think you shouldn’t vote, seeing as you fall for such obvious lies. Obama hasn’t removed any money for medicare, he instead has a budget were the reductions in increases in funding to medicare equal 500 billion dollars over 4 years, mainly because the money is not needed due to increased efficiency in the system. Look at Paul Ryan’s plan, and you’ll see a similar decrease in funding, but only because he needs to cut something for more tax cuts for millionaires and unnecessary military spending. Everything else you say proves that you take Glenn Beck and the blogs of far-right nutjobs as the ultimate source of news, and that scares me.

they know who their friends are.

Democracy? What, the disenfranchised Palestinians don’t count? How convenient. Your position is much like the slave holders in America before the Civil War.

LtcHoward says:

What disenfranchised Palestinians are you referring to? Those in camps on the West Bank who the Palestinian Authority does not regard as citizens? in Israel, all citizens Arab, Jewish, whatever are entitled to vote. It’s difficult to understand your slaveholder reference.

judahdan says:

Obama: “When I meet with world leaders, what’s striking — whether it’s in Europe or here in Asia…” -mistakenly referring to Hawaii as Asia while holding a press conference outside Honolulu, Nov. 16, 2011

jobardu says:

Elliott Jager should consider posting his comments with the words Mexican or La Raza replacing Jewish or Israeli and Mexico City replacing Jerusalem. Such a comment would attract instant denunciation in the mainstream media and academia regardless of whether the Mexican Americans paid taxes or expressed the same degree of love and loyalty to the US. This is an important election for the security and future or Israel and Jews everywhere. Please get out and vote Mr. Jager.

Shelly Morer says:

All other issues aside, being subject to taxation gives us the right to vote. It would be totally undemocratic to levy taxes on us without allowing us representation.

Hard Little Machine says:

So to summarize, the Tablet says that unless they vote for Obama they shouldn’t be permitted to vote at all. Good to know.

Suzy Lenkowsky says:

“No taxation without representation” Then move back here or sever ties. Israel’s support of GW Bush has put my country through hell. I firmly believe Romney and the same old GOP policies will dig us deeper .If you’re voting for something and living here you “have skin in the game” , if you’re voting there your focus is only what you perceive is beneficial to Israel while the rest of us have to live with the full range of policies you help create. Forgive me , but I resent the hell out of that.

herbcaen says:

so go ahead and vote for the re-election of President Valerie Jarrett

mouskatel says:

Suzy, you have to pay taxes if you’re an American citizen, no matter what country you live in. Please learn something about tax and emigration law before spouting nonsense. (Here’s a little tidbit to really get your blood boiling: We file tax returns every year, but since our income falls into a certain bracket- I get EITC credits- $1000 per child per year. :))) This year it will be up to $4000. So we get to vote and get gubmint money. Hah!)

jaykayDX says:

All these people voting for Romney NOT because he’s good for America but because he’s good for Israel should be stripped of their US citizenship and tried for treason; You can either be loyal to America OR loyal to Israel – NOT both. The truth can now be told – that zionists are a fifth column in every country they reside in, their first allegiance is to Israel and Israel ONLY and they they are NOT loyal to the countries they live and work in!

Rich Ross says:

Your comment is incorrect on the subject. It is muslims who are a 5th column in every country they are found. They are always muslims first and their loyalty is to the cause of Islam.

Suzy Lenkowsky says:

Thanks for your condescending reply.

I do understand about Americans living in another country paying taxes .What I’m saying is you should be living HERE under the policies of the party you elect. I don’t believe Americans making their home in another country should pay taxes nor should they be allowed to vote in our elections.It’s no longer their election.
Make a choice here or there and live with it. But living there and voting here you are make ME live with your , basically, one issue vote and that’s not fair from my view any more than you living there and paying taxes here for services you can’t use is fair to you. And you’re right the EITC credit does raise my blood pressure more than a little.

Many Jews here are becoming increasingly conflicted about Israel , and not because of the Palestinian conflict most of us are on your side with that, but because of issues like “who is a Jew?”. A friend who’s grandmother had a Conservative conversion isn’t seen as a Jew, never mind that she’s a rabbi. If Israel is picking and choosing who they see as a Jew then Israel is no longer seen as the Jewish homeland and why should they support it? This is the kind of conversation I’m hearing “They want our money and support but wouldn’t accept me.” That attitude is growing and I’ll leave you to extrapolate the eventual outcome. With the number of people and ideologies that want us dead we can’t afford to be divided. But ,as Reform Judaism is the fastest growing movement here, if there isn’t a shift in attitude it bodes ill for Israel being supported. If you’re open and welcoming to the various denominations with love and kindness , who knows. I have a friend, Reform, who found the Chabad movement so warm and welcoming that it drew her to Orthodoxy.
There are other issues that are making Israel look more like a theocracy than a democracy that we find increasingly appalling .
The bullies that have beaten women for daring to sit where they want on a bus ,and yes I understand the theology but not the brutality and yes I know about the courts ruling , the women praying at the Kotel in tallitot who’ve been harassed & arrested . I’m sixty-four years old and protested and marched for women’s rights. I remember the inequities so these are important issues for me and many men and women here.

I didn’t mean this to turn into a thesis but at least I haven’t killed a tree by using paper !

Georges says:

Excuse me, loyal to America or to Israel? How about, …loyal to God or to God? Who seeks the heart of God? God has eternally exalted His unwavering principles of right. By these principles we are judged; as we are also, expected to judge. Do we know so little of Him, that we uplift those who defame and blaspheme Him? God was removed from the Dem Convention platform this year. Does that not speak volumes? Our support should be to the candidate who fears God and seeks his face in ALL things. A country is nothing apart from their fear of God.

Georges says:

It is very confusing. We have watched him become

An Islam to Islams
A Christian to Christians
A white to whites
A black to blacks
An Israeli to Israelis
An Arab to Arabs
A Muslim to Muslims
A Jew to Jews
An American to Americans
A Middle Eastern to Middle Easterns

He is an ever changing, evolving, morphing mystery. Whatever works for the moment, that is what he becomes. This is not deference and diplomacy. It is deception and dishonesty.

Georges says:

Obama supports the book, The Yellow Wind, which formed his core beliefs about Israel and it’s oppressive rule over Palestine.

Georges says:

That’s understandable, as he doesn’t recall whether he was birthed in Indonesia or Hawaii.

Georges says:

Informed USA voters – God Help US! Perhaps those who actually know the issues and who are running for offices?
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/09/24/howard_stern_interviews_obama_supporters_2012.html

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Americans in Israel Vote GOP

A poll shows that 85 percent of American-Israelis went for Romney. But some ask whether they should vote at all.

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