Israel Resource News Agency
Center for Near East Policy Research
Beit Agron International Press Center
37 Hillel Street
Jerusalem 94581 Israel
Assisting in preparation of this piece: Sara Rose Oster, Michael Kuttner and Hannah Vaitsblit
Our agency has covered the reaction of Israel to every US presidential election since 1984.
Yet this is the first election where there was a “get out the vote effort” aimed at the estimated 200,000 US citizens who live in Israel, to encourage them to cast an absentee ballot from the Holy Land.
Elie Pieprz, former resident of Seattle, is the director of IVoteIsrael, running this unprecedented campaign to encourage US citizens in Israel to vote.
Pieprz’s goal was to “make voter registration easier” for Americans who live in Israel to participate in the electoral process, and he was pleased with the results: There was a 400% increase in voters in this year’s election. One out of four 4 overseas votes in this election came from Israel, more than any other nation, which is a remarkable number, considering the fact that Israel only has a total population of less than eight million people.
Speaking for his home state, Pieprz said that there were registered voters from numerous Washington State counties, including mainly “King”, “Island”, “Pierce” counties.
All told, 750 Washington State residents voted in this election from Israel (out of 80,000 who registered to vote from Israel)
One anecdote that Pieprz related was the there was an IVoteIsrael event where they were helping citizens fill out ballots (write-in ballots are given out when absentee ballots are not received in time). Suddenly, there was a fire alarm in the building and they had to evacuate the building, but the event continued anyway, which for Pieprz was an indication of a patriotism of those who were “identifying themselves as Americans, even in this situation, filling out ballots”
Pieprz also described a man who had moved to Palestine in 1930 (even before Israel was established), and that he was drafted into US army during World Wat II, while living in Palestine, and “how proud he was to stand in line to vote through IVoteIsrael… at the age of 90.
In terms of implications for American politics, Pieprz noted that “So many Americans in Israel have voted that it has made US politicians aware of their participation in these elections that it is now clear that Israel is not merely an ally, but that Israel is home the constituents of many elected officials’ constituents”.
After all, when you need 90,000 votes to win a congressional seat, 7,000 to 8,000 constituents who living in Israel can cast a significant amount of ballots.
Seattle native Judith Pieprz, the (wife of Elie, a psychologist, and not connected to IVoteIsrael, was passionately campaigning for Mitt Romney during the election campaign among fellow American citizens in Israel. In the words of Judith Pieprz,
“Obama is the least pro-Israel president. Not only does Obama not feel strongly about protecting Israel’s interests, he also has a parochial attitude…he tells Israel what he thinks it should do”, instead of asking Israel, as a friend: how can he help?…Judith Pieprz concluded that this attitude of Obama is “condescending.”
Mark Van Gelderen, a Seattle native who also lives and who voted in Israel, also he cast an absentee ballot. Van Gelderen said that Obams’s reelection was expected posited that “this time the president will be more realistic regarding Mid East diplomacy’ and that Obama came in with ideals of simple solutions.
Van Gelderen said that President Obama may now understand that the current peace process is ineffective, even if he might try to enter into new negotiations.
Van Gelderen also commented that If Romney had won “the dynamic would be totally different-he doesn’t have the same ideals as Obama and, besides which, “he’s friends with Prime Minister Netanyahu” e
Marc Zell, a native of Washington DC who lives and practices law in Israel. who heads Republicans Abroad in Israel says that he felt strongly that “This President and his advisers do not have an emotional connection to Israel the way that Romney does.” and that Obama lacks an understanding of the geopolitical situation here.
Zell attributed the Obama victory to a “negative campaign mostly on the part of the President who made a tactical decision to make it so and succeeded.” and commented that “Romney presented himself in a very unbiased, honorable way and thus perhaps failed in equally addressing the negativity” and avoided the question of the Libyan murders when he could have capitalized upon that.
Then again, Zell noted, there were some uncontrollable elements, like Hurricane Sandy, which American citizens from abroad watched very closely
In Zell’s words, “The storm distracted the public’s attention from the campaign” in the last week when Romney’s campaign was really picking up steam and “gave Obama the opportunity to look presidential for the first time [in his presidency.” and that, this presidential appearance distracted people from recognizing how unprepared the nation and President were for the storm.
In terms of the future, Zell expressed some apprehension that that Obama might intervene in Israeli elections,as Clinton did in 1999, and also expressed concern that President Obama might strengthen his relationship with Jewish groups that continually bash Israel
Zell was proud to say that 85% of Americans in Israel voted Republican and that he managed to accrue 1700 followers in 1.5 months without advertisement. Zell observed that “I did not expect to find what I found on Twitter…a range of patriotic people who love Israel…and care about the people who live in Israel.”
Two American citizens who live in Israel who asked not to be identified said that Obama care featured in played a role in their decision i to vote for Obama, because of family members who still lived in the USA. Two other Americans in Israel who voted for Obama said that they “closed their eyes and held their noses as they voted for Obama and Democratic Congress/Senate candidates because they just could not bring themselves to support anyone else”,saying that they were not convinced that he in the end would make much difference because he would be captive to the anti Israel State Dept.
Yet despite all the talk in Israel about Obama not liking Israel or Netanyahu in particular, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Uri Elitzur, writing in the daily Israeli paper Makor Rishon, wrote a few words to place put all that in perspective, saying that “the time has come to free ourselves from the childish thoughts as if the policies of the Unites States are set according to the personal loves and hates of a president”.
Elitzur went on to say that “During the period of Obama, who didn’t love us, the security ties between the two states strengthened greatly, America cast a veto in the UN on our behalf, and on the matter of Iran the US went on the path that Netanyahu pushed with great effort, even if not with joy or enthusiasm” and that “None of these had anything to do with personal chemistry”.
Elitzur concluded that “It is not a healthy situation for Israel to be in a situation in which the president of the United States is hugging our prime minister and pouring love on him” and that “when a big and small figure are good friends, the small one fulfills every request of the big one because it is unpleasant to refuse him, this while the big one can easily allow himself to say “no” to the requests of the small one” and that “When a big figure and small figure carry out negotiations in an atmosphere of distance and reservations, it is easier for the small figure to take a stand, defer proposals, make conditions and sometimes refuse”, and warned the Israeli public that “friendship between Bush and Sharon completely crippled Sharon against every American request and pressure”, concluding that it is preferable for the Israeli head of state to “develop cold and suspicious relations with the US president for a diplomatic duel and never to engage in a love fest, and to always whisper to himself at every meeting: ‘not just chemistry’..”.