The Importance of Israeli Absentee Votes

The people of the United States of America will elect their 45th president this coming November. During the past year, the dozens of candidates seeking the votes of the American people were whittled down to just a handful of individuals who will appear on the ballot. One of the two frontrunners – Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – will most likely serve as America’s president for the next four years.

On Nov. 8, millions across the country will cast their votes, but there are also many outside the United States who will play a large role in this election. Thousands of U.S. citizens live in various places around the globe and still have the opportunity to vote for U.S. president, senators, representatives and more.

One of the world’s No. 1 homes away from home for Americans is the country of Israel. The United States and Israel have had a strong working relationship for decades. From foreign trade to military initiatives, the two countries have helped one another in combat and in establishing stability in the Middle East. It is estimated that more than 360,000 Americans are currently living in Israel – although that is just a small percentage of the more than 8 million Americans who reside outside the United States.

One organization serves as a voice to help Americans living in Israel in casting their votes. Meet Republicans Overseas Israel.

Although the Jerusalem-based ROI isn’t directly associated with the Republican National Convention, the group seeks to assist voters overseas in representing the Republican Party in Israel through campaigns, speaking engagements and the dissemination of information about the GOP and its candidates.

Counsel to Republicans Overseas Israel Abe Katsman is an American attorney and political commentator currently living in Israel. “For many voters, this election presents candidates who are not ideal,” Katsman said. “Nevertheless, our vote is still important.”

Foreign affairs have been a contentious topic for candidates in their respective campaigns. One of the most direct issues relates to the United States’ support for Israel. Considering the 2016 presidential candidates’ various viewpoints on the subject, Katsman says the issue is an important one for Americans to consider, especially during this year’s election. “Democrats talk big about their commitment to Israel, but in reality, most have only been fair-weather friends,” Katsman said. “When Clinton and President [Barack] Obama were abusing Israel diplomatically, where was the pushback from congressional Democrats? Even the dozens of Jewish Democrats in Congress meekly stood with the administration. Republicans, on the other hand, have stood up for Israel unapologetically, and just passed the most pro-Israel platform in history.

“The degree to which support for Israel is no longer bipartisan is lamentable and worrisome,” he added. “Today’s Democrats are not the pro-Israel centrists of yesteryear, but have lurched to the left and include swelling ranks of anti-Zionist.”

The ROI website offers Americans living in Israel – including dual citizens – helpful resources ranging from ways to contact their elected representatives to absentee voter registrations. Its unique access to American representatives “allows us to present issues that concern the American community in Israel,” a ROI member said. “Because election margins are often extremely narrow, absentee votes are critical to the election.”

The group also addresses key issues that relate directly to U.S. citizens residing in Israel. One of the more prominent topics in recent history was the FATCA Supreme Court Litigation. In this case, ROI brought a challenge against the Israeli Supreme Court, saying that it violated the rights of private, individual account holders. Under the terms of that agreement, Israeli financial institutions were required to transfer data of account holders held by U.S. citizens with a balance of $50,000 or more. Even though the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the FATCA legislation, the challenge was still important for ROI and its supporters.

Americans living outside the United States are still enormously impacted by the results of U.S. elections. Those citizens have a voice – and that is being furthered by the work and mission of Republicans Overseas Israel, which has as its ultimate goal to empower “Americans in Israel to participate in U.S. elections.” Absentee voting is an important right of U.S. citizens’ and will go far in helping to choose the next president of the United States.

This article originally appeared on Philos Project, and reposted with permission.

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Jonny Gamet serves as the youth pastor at Grace Baptist Fellowship in Greenville, S.C. He graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Radio Television Broadcasting and went on to complete a master's degree in Broadcast Management and a master's in Biblical Studies. He also currently serves as the sports information director at Bob Jones University. A self-proclaimed coffee and theology addict, he enjoys studying and writing about sports, religion and entertainment. He is a gifted writer and blogger, speaker and social media strategist. Most of all, he is a husband and a father to three beautiful children.