REUTERS - The Israeli branch of the U.S. Republican party began a campaign on Monday to get American voters living in Israel to cast absentee ballots in favour of Donald Trump.
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According to the Israeli chapter of the Republican party, around 300,000 Americans are eligible to vote in the November presidential elections.
Marc Zell, the head of Republicans Overseas Israel branch, said the campaign aimed to rekindle interest in U.S. politics among second- and third-generation citizens, many of whom have children who will be eligible to vote for the first time.
"We want to try to attract new voters who perhaps in the past had no special interest in voting in the U.S. elections," Zell told Reuters.
Tzvika Brot, who is heading the campaign, estimated that about three-quarters of American-Israelis would support the Republican party.
A Democratic party representative in Israel disputed that estimate, telling Israel Radio the majority of Israeli and U.S. Jewish voters had always preferred the Democrats.
A poll of Jewish Israelis conducted in May found 40 percent of respondents backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and 31 percent supported Trump. The poll didn't specify whether those who responded were eligible to vote in the U.S. election, but a recent report by Haaretz found Clinton enjoyed wide-spread support in the generally liberal Tel Aviv.
The pro-Trump drive opened at a shopping mall in the central Israeli town of Modiin and will focus on areas with high concentrations of American-Israelis. Brot said he hoped the new votes being sought might help tip the balance in swing states.
Trump, who has accused the administration of President Barack Obama of lacklustre support for Israel, won his party's nomination for the presidency last month. He has rejected last year's nuclear deal with Iran and called for more investment in missile defence in Europe.
His views, including a vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a proposal to impose a temporary ban on Muslims seeking to enter the country, have polarized the Republican party and caused widespread consternation.
Trump has also been criticised for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last month he would put at risk U.S. and world security with his "politics of fear and isolation".
The Democratic Party will also be reaching out to its members in Israel “through emails and phone banking, reminding our members that they need to request their ballot to vote this year,” according to Alex Montgomery, communications director of Democrats Abroad.
“We will very shortly start running ads on social media across Israel to let potential voters know how they can vote and answer the many questions voters from abroad typically have about the voting process,” he told Jewish News Service.
A May poll of Israelis showed that 62 percent are sure or think that Trump will be committed to safeguarding Israel’s security if elected as president.
“Nobody but Donald Trump will save Israel,” Trump tweeted in April 2015.
According to a recent Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel, while just 7 percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians.
That sentiment is shared by 77 percent of Trump’s primary supporters, with only 9 percent who say they sympathize with neither side.
Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged Trump to show the same sort of consistency in his expressions of support for Israel as he does in his ferocious opposition to ISIS.
“He has been very inconsistent in many of the things that he has said,” Cantor said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “I want to see that clarity as far as Israel is concerned – an America that has its back and is leading. I want to see him say that.”
Jacob Kornbluh contributed to this report and parts of this article were originally published on Jewish Insider.
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