Record interest in US election from Israelis with ability to vote

Interest was high in both expat communities – Israelis living in the United States, and American citizens in Israel.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

While U.S. citizens who move to Israel overwhelmingly vote Republican, Israelis living in the U.S. supported both candidates in this election, Israel Hayom reports.

There were those who supported Democratic challenger Joe Biden, like Diana Meislin from Kiryat Gat now living in New York, who cited the racism, division and strife she sees now in America as a reason for voting for Biden.

“Everyone who is elected knows that positive and even friendly relations with Israel are the key to success in the Middle East,” she said.

Julie Yael Shen, a Tel Avivian transplant who moved to California, worries most about Iran and says she doesn’t understand the liberal tendencies of most American-born Jews.

“I fear a return to the implementation of the Obama-style nuclear deal with Iran. In my experience, I have learned to be disappointed by the tendency of Jews here to be Democrats…. The apex was when I dined with a friend who told me that his mother always said, ‘It’s better for you to bring home a non-Jewish girl than a Republican.’”

Other voters talked approvingly of the bond between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the strong support of the Republican party for Israel versus what they see as a Democrat move away from their native Israel.

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On the other side of the ocean, as of the 2016 election, some 183,500 Israelis were eligible to vote in the U.S. elections. Both the local Democrat and Republican organizations said that interest this time around was higher than it had ever been before.

Weeks before the election, the nonpartisan website votefromabroad.org already registered more than double the usage from Israel over the 2016 election.

“People are calling me every 30 seconds – it’s crazy,” Republicans Overseas chairman Marc Zell told Haaretz in mid-October.

“We’re seeing a degree of interest in registration and requests for absentee ballots that I haven’t seen in the 30 years I’ve been doing this. We get calls from people who haven’t voted for 30 to 40 years. We’re hearing from first-time voters who have never cast an absentee ballot from Israel. It’s quite a phenomenon.”

Last week, a car convoy of enthusiastic expat Trump supporters drove to the American embassy in Jerusalem to show their appreciation for the incumbent in his fight to win reelection.

“Today, I’m here because we believe Donald Trump is a hero” because of what he’s done to promote peace between Israel and Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE, said one man draped in an American flag and sporting a Trump 2020 face mask.

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Even if tens of thousands voted from Israel by mail, fax or online, breaking every record in the books, this is a drop in the bucket considering that the pollsters’ predictions are for the highest American turnout since 1908, when some 66% voted. In today’s numbers that would be some 168 million votes. In addition, Israeli-Americans’ roots are in many different states, which dilutes their electoral power even more.

The question of their overall effect may therefore ultimately come down to how and if their views influenced relatives, friends, and Zionist supporters in the United States. When 70% of Jewish Israelis favor Trump, as polls have consistently showed, it is likely that the expat community follows this trend and would tell others so.

“American Jews living in Israel say, ‘Hey, the guy’s OK’ — I think it does have some kind of influence on voters,” Israeli American pollster Mitchell Barak told National Public Radio Tuesday.