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September 29, 2016 7:28 am

American Olim Weigh in on Presidential Debate

avatar by Eliana Rudee

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Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate on Monday at Hofstra University. Photo: Screenshot.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate on Monday at Hofstra University. Photo: Screenshot.

It may have been 4 a.m. in Israel, but that didn’t stop American olim from live-streaming Monday’s presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There are an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 eligible US voters in Israel, with many coming from swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Thus, American voters in Israel could play a key role in this year’s election outcome.

A few hours after the debate, Democratic and Republican activists in Israel weighed in on it.

Marc Zell, co-chairman of the Israel Branch of Republicans Abroad, noted that while political novices were impressed with Trump, “A lot of people felt he could have addressed a number of the issues more effectively.” Zell believes that this election cycle “breaks the mold when it comes to traditional thinking about American presidential campaigns” because of “deep-seated discontent among the electorate for establishment politics, Democratic and Republican alike.”

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Zell said that he supports the Republican candidate with enthusiasm, because he believes in Trump’s ability to “shake up the establishment in Washington, both in the executive branch in particular and Congress.”

Zell criticized Clinton’s foreign policy for diminishing America’s credibility abroad, by “withdrawing and retracting American presence and enthroning and empowering regional powers like Iran.”

Nowhere has this trend been felt more accutely than in the Middle East and Israel, he said. According to Zell, Clinton and Obama oversaw many regional disasters, such as the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, the collapse of the Libyan regime and resulting entry of al-Qaeda into the country — and more. What’s more, Zell said, Iran’s rise has threatened the existence of Israel. “Hillary Clinton is not capable of restoring the United States to where the world needs it to be, and where Israel needs it to be,” Zell concluded.

Sheldon Schorer, a former chairman of Democrats in Israel, thinks that “we will see more interest in Hillary” following the debate, because her “strengths were displayed in front of the entire world.” He said that she “demonstrated her stamina, intelligence, courage and leadership, and her ability to articulate issues and plans, and lead America forward.”

In discussing Clinton’s candidacy, Schorer maintained that she succeeded in her principal duty as secretary of state — restoring America’s place in the world. “It was because of her tenacity as secretary of state that America is now the leader of the world. It was because of her tenacity that she was able to get countries such as France, China, and Russia to join in sanctions that brought Iran to the [negotiating] table,” he said.

Schorer criticized Trump’s performance and personality during the debate. “Donald Trump, at the beginning, was a little more restrained — but he was unable to restrain himself at the end. His weaknesses were exposed. His personality is such that if you attack him, he’ll attack you right back.” Schorer also criticized Trump’s plans as “the same old tired, conservative, Republican ones that we’ve heard for years: anti-abortion, tax cuts for the wealthy. This is not where America is, and it’s not where I’d like to see America go.”

After hearing about Trump’s foreign policy (or lack thereof), Schorer said, “I would urge the voters to see that Hillary Clinton is a better choice.”

Schorer named a strong US economy, national security, counter-terrorism, preventing nuclear proliferation and supporting Israel as top priorities for American-Jewish expats in Israel, while Zell named opposing the Iran agreement, non-intervention in the Israeli peace process, repealing the foreign account tax compliance act that transfers hackable data to the IRS via the Israeli Tax Authority and ensuring the viability of the American-Israeli strategic relationship as crucial.

While the Republican and Democrat activists did not agree on policy, they were certainly on the same page about the importance of registering to vote and sending in overseas ballots. According to Schorer, “Americans living overseas are affected by legislation in America. It’s legitimate for the voters here to express their opinions.”

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Israel Girl” column for JNS.org. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.

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