Written by Abraham Katsman, an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. Abe serves as Counsel to Republicans Overseas Israel.
This is as crazy an election season as any. The levels of dissatisfaction with both major party presidential candidates may be unprecedented, and many American voters in Israel might be thinking of sitting this one out. That would be a mistake.
There are compelling reasons for U.S. citizens to vote.
To begin with, we in Israel do have an impact. As the polls tighten, the idea that every vote counts is no cliché. In 2000, the entire election swung on a 500-vote margin in Florida—a state in which over 7,000 votes were cast from Israel in the last election.
But even outside the swing states, voting by everyone from Israel impacts the political treatment of all voters in Israel—and of Israel itself. Governments and politicians simply pay more attention to bigger constituencies. As the number of votes from Israel has skyrocketed over successive election cycles, our voice is one increasingly listened to.
Besides the presidency, there are also House and Senate seats, governorships, and even state legislature positions up for grabs in races we can impact.
There are also compelling reasons Americans in Israel should vote Republican.
No, Donald Trump may not be a candidate to everyone’s taste. Understood. Nevertheless, there are stark differences between the parties and the candidates directly impacting voters in Israel. Whether comparing the respective candidates’ teams and likely makeup of their administrations; their records and likely policies regarding Israel’s security, diplomatic standing and alliance with America; their likely Supreme Court and other judicial appointments; or positions on the repeal of FATCA and residence-based taxation, the Republicans are a breath of fresh air.
Furthermore, the Republicans have become an incredibly—and reliably—Zionistic party. Lamentably, today’s Democrats are not the pro-Israel centrists of yesteryear, but have lurched hard to the left, and are now the home of swelling ranks of anti-Zionists.
So, after weighing pros and cons, even voters who are less-than-enthusiastic—but for whom Israel’s future is a priority—will find it important to vote. And they will also find it clearly preferable to vote Republican, and to vote for Donald Trump for President.
Here are just a few particulars to consider:
The Republicans have the more solidly pro-Israel presidential team.
A vote for president is really a vote for an entire administration. Besides being vocally pro-Israel himself, the people with whom Donald Trump has surrounded himself include Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and John Bolton–as rock solid a team on Israel-related issues as has ever been assembled. Furthermore, his Israel specialists are two kippah-wearing aides with intimate knowledge of this country.
If this team is any indication, a Trump presidency could well provide the most pro-Israel administration ever. At a minimum, this group looks a LOT better for Israel than the team assembled on the other side.
The Republicans will repeal FATCA. The Democrats won’t.
FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), is likely the least-sensible and most counter-productive law of any passed during the Obama years. It treats ordinary Americans abroad as if they are money-laundering criminals. FATCA coerces every non-U.S. financial institution into segregating their U.S-citizen clients, compiling reams of private information on them, and turning it over to the IRS. The additional tax revenue captured through FATCA is miniscule—a fraction of the cost of implementation; the intrusion on Americans abroad is great; and the compliance costs for every one of those foreign banks and brokerages are truly staggering.
To avoid those costs, financial institutions in Israel and elsewhere are increasingly slamming their doors shut on Americans and their businesses, denying U.S. citizens even basic financial services. Besides the ominous implications for some 360,000 Americans already living in Israel, this can only hinder aliyah, and, by extension, harm the Israeli economy.
The Democrats own FATCA, having rammed it through Congress without a single Republican vote. But Republicans worldwide—led by Republicans Overseas Israel—have fought for repeal. We have succeeded in placing FATCA-repeal in the Republican platform, and new FATCA Congressional hearings are afoot. Meanwhile, the Democrats have been AWOL.
The Republicans have become THE pro-Israel party.
Campaigning Democrats talk big about their “unshakeable” commitment to Israel. In reality, however, most have only been fair-weather friends. During the dark days of President Obama’s first term, when there was a widespread perception that Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were gratuitously abusing Israel diplomatically to create “daylight” (their term) between the countries, where was the pushback from those unshakeable friends, the Congressional Democrats? Even the dozens of Jewish Democrats in Congress stood by, silent and meek. With friends like these…we need more Congressional Republicans.
In fact, it is Republicans who stand up for Israel unapologetically. It is no coincidence that they just passed the most pro-Israel platform in history—one that recognizes the depth and importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, forthrightly declaring: “Support for Israel is support for America…”
We bemoan the degree to which solid support for Israel is no longer bipartisan. It is beyond worrisome. Unfortunately, that is the new reality. The Democrats this year debated platform amendments condemning Israel’s “occupation” and “illegal settlements.” True, those amendments were defeated. For now. With 44% of the vote. And backers chanting “Free, free Palestine!”
The Trump Record on Israel is Solid.
No, Trump does not have a long political record regarding Israel. But his support for Israel and Israeli and Jewish causes is longstanding, consistent and untarnished.
Democrats cynically keep raising Trump’s statement expressing “neutrality” between Israel and the Palestinians. The dishonesty in that claim is that Trump made the statement regarding mediating negotiations between the two sides. When it comes to substantive policy, however, Trump is completely behind Israel. His own staff had a hand in crafting the pro-Israel platform language discussed above.
The absence of a long political record also means no record of propping up the Iranian government during the 2009 Green Revolution, or initiating the negotiations culminating in the Iran nuclear deal, or continuing to support that deal, or publicly ripping the government of Israel for homebuilding in Jerusalem, or publicly questioning Israel’s commitment to its American alliance, or driving the U.S.-Israel relationship to “its lowest point in 35 years” (the reported assessment of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.). Trump concedes: he does not have that kind of experience.
Voting Republican is in America’s Interest. And Israel’s.
For many voters, this election presents candidates who are not ideal. Nevertheless, our vote is still important. For Israel-focused voters, voting Republican is by far the best option.
Abe Katsman is an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. He serves as Counsel to Republicans Overseas Israel.