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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

American Jews: Israel shouldn’t be the only focus during election season

Published: November 9, 2012
Section: Opinions

According to the Jerusalem Post, a record number of Israeli-Americans cast their vote in this election. Four times the amount of absentee ballots were sent from Israel to voice their support for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Unsurprisingly, Israelis supported Romney over Obama. Exit polls show that Romney received 85 percent of the Jewish vote via absentee from Israel. This is in direct opposition to the 69 percent of the Jewish vote that supported President Obama in America. This discrepancy is easily explained and highlights the differences between Jews in America and our countrymen residing in the homeland regarding presidential politics.

When analyzing the results from Israeli absentee ballots, one shouldn’t read too far into them. Israeli-Americans live in Israel because, for whatever reason, at this current moment, they want to be in Israel more than America. There is nothing wrong with that. We must understand that Americans choosing to reside in and consider Israel their home make decisions with their “Israel brain” of what is best for Israel. They are thinking solely of the consequences of the presidential election for Israel. The domestic consequences of their vote are not necessarily a top priority when they fill in their ballot with an ink pen. They want an American president who will support Israel with no limitations, who will provide financial, public and military support. This is not an unreasonable request. It is, however, selfish and should not be a barometer of Jewish opinion on presidential candidates.

This problem is not limited to votes cast from abroad. There are many American Jews who will proudly vouch their vote for Romney. Similar to their Israeli counterparts, American Jews want a president that will unwaveringly support Israel. They want a president that will constantly affirm Israel’s importance in foreign policy. Because of these demands, this is exactly what is happening on a national stage. Again, according to the Jerusalem Post, during the third and final presidential debate, Israel was mentioned an astonishing 32 times. The Jewish voting block is far too important for any presidential candidate to neglect to reaffirm their love and commitment to Israel. American Jews possess a sincere, but unnecessary worry that a presidential candidate in the near future is going to announce that he or she no longer supports Israel.

Israel is still, however, in the most basic sense, just another country. In the same way that no American would be all right with the government writing a blank check to just any country or cause, a blind philosophical and financial support of Israel would be unwise at best. The perspective that despite historical ties, and an American responsibility toward a country it helped to create, it is necessary for a candidate to pledge unwavering support for Israel should be kept in check. I like the fact that Obama doesn’t let Israel get away with whatever it wants. Israel, despite what many American Jews and Israelis believe, does not always know what is best, nor do they always do the right thing. I want a president who isn’t going to be constantly bowing out, or blindly supporting and agreeing with Israel’s actions. I want a president with a backbone in foreign affairs. Obama has a clear analytic mind and is calm and rational in action. Romney was worrisome for a multitude of reasons, but in respect to Israel, he would have supported Israel out of blind faith, instead of truly evaluating its demands and actions.

But Romney appeared to be exactly what Israelis want, an American president who will stand with and act in accordance with Israel’s whims without critically thinking about its actions. Israeli-Americans who submitted their absentee ballots in support of Romney were choosing what was best for their own homes, like any other American. The Romney/Ryan ticket would have lent blind-support for the country in which they live. It is understandable that Israeli-Americans and American Jews were so disparate in this year’s election: they were voting for the candidate that benefited them. That the policies of the candidates inspired such division is not the fault of the demographic, but rather it is the result of a system that requires a candidate, in order to gain the support of a certain demographic, to unwisely pledge a foolish, undying support for a country with its own interests.