The issue of illicit foreign interference in American elections has consumed much energy over the past four years. But this upcoming Election Day, a lesser-known and positive foreign influence will be felt—not from Russia, but rather from the State of Israel.
This year, nearly 400,000 American citizens—or roughly a quarter of a percent of those who voted in 2016—will cast their ballots from thousands of miles away in their homes in Israel and help determine the fate of the presidency.
U.S. citizens who live abroad are eligible to register and vote via absentee ballots in federal elections under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, signed into law by President Reagan in 1986. The bill was amended several times, most recently by President Obama in 2009, to fully ensure the voting rights of Americans scattered around the world.
Traditionally, stateside citizens are much more likely to vote than those overseas. But Americans in Israel, unlike all other expat communities, retain a particularly vivid interest in voting. Even despite the voter fatigue induced by three Israeli elections in the past year, voter participation from Israel will likely remain high.
So why do Jews who left their homes in America and moved to Israel stay so politically connected with the United States?
First, America and Israel are indissolubly bound by their shared histories and traditions. The Bible influenced ancient Israel, which America is modeled after, and Zionism led millions of Jews back to Israel 2,000 years later. Today, many Americans in Israel still believe in the same precepts, celebrate the same holidays and honor the same heroes as their counterparts in the United States. Being a Zionist—and with it, cherishing freedom, justice and morality—only enhances one’s appreciation for the ideals articulated by the Declaration of Independence.
Second, both nations have common enemies which cause them to stand in solidarity. The threat of radical Islamic terrorism—sponsored, directed and led foremost by Iran—remains significant, widespread and apparent. If you ask any Israeli what they fear most, you will get the same answer: a nuclear-armed Iran.
Our unity stands not only as a symbol of hope for Western civilization but also as a bulwark against a sea of barbarism.
Third, our proud legacies of liberty, which our enemies seek to extinguish, only make us more cognizant of our common interests and the need to find suitable frameworks to forge a successful alliance. Having seen the deadly results of radicalism and hate, it’s clear America and Israel can’t afford to be out of step in terms of their foreign policies. America as a superpower has been the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and Israel is a force multiplier for America in the Middle East.
Israel needs an America committed to defending all that makes America great and helping keep the Jewish state safe. America needs an Israel that’s a powerful and reliable ally, especially in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.
One way to help advance the cause of liberty is by voting. As it turns out, Americans in Israel have a constructive role to play here. While lots of Americans moved to Israel from red or blue states, the number of voters from purple states is not insignificant and can tip the result, as we saw in the Bush-Gore election.
Moreover, Americans in Israel bear a unique responsibility, as a bridge between the two countries. We owe deep gratitude to the United States for the freedoms we received at home, unprecedented in our long Diaspora journey, and for combating anti-Semitism around the world. And now, having miraculously returned to the Promised Land, we are obliged to play a continuing role in the successful development of the United States.
That’s why iVoteIsrael, the non-partisan organization I direct, is doing everything it can to engage Americans in Israel and help them request their ballots for the U.S. election in November.
The exercise of voting was created not just as a small opportunity for the American people to engage with the government. It reflects the Founding Fathers’ fundamental beliefs that participation in democracy is imperative for maintaining liberty.
On this Election Day, let’s capitalize on this priceless gift of voting and show our gratitude for all that America has done to protect and advance the cause of liberty, not just in America but for freedom around the world.
Yossi Raskas is the director of iVoteIsrael, a non-partisan organization devoted to helping Americans residing in Israel with registering for the U.S. presidential election.
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