JERUSALEM – More than 100,000 American voters in Israel cast their ballots for a presidential candidate, with nearly 80,000 of them having submitted a ballot provided by iVoteIsrael, a local non-profit organization that spent the past few months aggressively encouraging American expatriates living in Israel to register and vote. The remaining registered voters cast their ballots via the absentee route.
Due to what was expected to be a tight race for the White House between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, Israeli-based representatives of both political parties said that the overseas vote could possibly influence the final tally in some battleground states. The iVoteIsrael organization estimated that 7,500 Americans living in Israel are registered in Florida, and 3,500 in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.
According to an exit poll conducted by iVoteIsrael among 1,572 voters who cast their ballots in Israel, Romney received 85 percent of the vote. But Democratic Party representatives in Israel charged that the poll was skewed since iVoteIsrael was successful in registering mostly traditional and Orthodox American voters, whose political leanings are considered to be more conservative.
Similarly, American immigrants living in Israel might have an impact on a possibly changing political landscape in the January 22 Israeli elections. At least three Americans are vying for viable positions on various Knesset slates. Primaries for most of the major Israeli political factions will take place in the coming weeks.
The most well known English-speaking candidate is affluent former hi-tech whiz Naftali Bennett, who served from 2006-2008 as then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff and is a former director general of the Yesha Council. Bennett, the 40-year-old son of American immigrants, is a leader of the rightist My Israel movement.
Bennett is virtually guaranteed to garner enough support to be placed among the top five slots on the Jewish Home Knesset list. According to recent polls, the merger between Jewish Home and the National Union could bring the reinvigorated religious Zionist political faction up to 10 seats in the elections. Jeremy Gimpel, who is originally from Atlanta and who has gained a local and international Internet audience as co-host of the “Tuesday Night Live” talk show in Jerusalem, is also running for a feasible slot on the Jewish Home Knesset list.
Staten Island native Daniel Tauber recently announced his candidacy for the 35th spot on the Likud Party’s primary list, which is reserved for “young political activists.” The 29-year-old lawyer-turned-politician is the executive director of “Likud Anglos.” As the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu are running a combined Knesset list in the upcoming elections, Tauber’s chances of entering the Israeli parliament would be a long shot.