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Jewish Journal

The Israeli vote

by Noga Gur-Arieh

November 7, 2012 | 9:36 am

Some of this week's newspapers

Two weeks ago, when Jonathan Mann conversed with Israeli media and political science specialists on the upcoming U.S elections, the discussion revolved around the question: Why do Israelis care so much about the U.S election, and what is its importance to us? For an hour and a half, the group exchanged opinions and talked about the mutual influence Israel and the U.S have on one another. But while the discussion was very passionate, it mostly referred to political, financial and security aspects of this complex relationship. When I asked the members of the Israelife Facebook page what else would they like to read about regarding the Israeli perspective on the elections, one of the readers suggested I should write about the way the "average" Israeli feels about the U.S election: "In the US, both sides feel this election is a crucial turning point for the country, and will likely be following reports throughout the day very closely. Do Israelis feel the same sense of urgency? How closely will your compatriots be watching this election?" he asked.

Well, let me answer with a Facebook status my friend posted two days ago: "I wonder if the Americans care about the U.S election as much as we do." Well, we may not be as passionate about who is better in what policy, but I swear if you visited Israel last week, you would think you never left the States. In the week prior to the election, it seemed as if there is no important news from Israel: Newspapers' headlines gave interpretations, presented predictions, analyzed polls, and compared the enlightened U.S presidential debates to our non-existing ones. Moreover, news channels sent correspondents to Washington, Chicago and New York, to report everything that's going on there during the last week, By everything, I mean EVERYTHING, including visiting bars and asking customers for whom are they voting.

There were times when I wondered if my fellow Israelis really care that much about what's going on many miles away. I mean, I know everyone cares about the results. The future president of the Unites States is Israel's future ally, and we all know that and understand the importance of it. However, the past week made me ponder the small details that there is no reason for us to care about. Do we really need TV specials, satirical shows election specials, news broadcast specials, special newspaper editions? Turns out it depends on whom you ask. 

Some of my fellow Political Science students find special interest in the U.S election because of its strategy and order and because it is the international symbol of Democracy. Some of my fellow Communication and Media students find particular interest in the election's media coverage. Some of my friends off campus find absolutely zero interest in the U.S election. Some make jokes on the overwhelming media coverage, and some had no idea when the Election Day is. One of the main jokers on the matter is my friend, Alex Zusmanovich, who wrote this Facebook status Tuesday night: "In just a few hours, 'Presidential Idol' will come to an end across the ocean. The lights will go off, the presentation explaining the electoral voting system to Israelis will go back to storage for four more years, Clint Eastwood will return to his house and embarrass himself there, the United States of America will wake up to the dawn of a new day (because this is what they always do there), and we will go back to deal with the real important issues of our local pond."

On the other side, there are those who stayed up all night on Tuesday (Israel time), and watched the live-update of the results. One of those people is a good friend of mine, Roee Snir. He is the Vice President of the Israeli model United Nations Society, and the Vice President of The Tel Aviv University Model United Nations Society. Soon, I'm sure, he'll be the Israeli Ambassador in the United States, so get ready. But until then, he got the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the election at the U.S ambassador's residence here. He is following every single step of the American politics. This is his hobby and passion in life. He knows of every policy Obama and Romney ever adopted, and has followed their every move. In case you were wondering, he is supporting Obama. Tuesday morning (Israel time), he wrote: "This is it. The United States' citizens will cast their votes in just six hours. After following the campaign intensely, this is my last status on the subject. In spite of its many issues, the United States, to me, is still the best model there is for Democracy: stable, valuable, honoring the freedom of the individual. I want to see a Unites States where every man has the basic right for health insurance, where every woman earns the same wages as her male co-worker. I want to see a United States who does not give up to aggressive Capitalism, who gives women the right to have full control of their bodies. In those intense times, the model of "land of the free and home of the brave" should glow in the dark that drowns our small world whose people are drifting further away. It is good for the state of Israel and good for the Americans as well."

I go somewhere in the middle. I understand the importance of the election to our small country, and also understand our importance to the election. I find the media coverage, both here and there, in the States, quite interesting and sometimes fascinating. There are so many differences between the way the election process and the campaigns work in the two countries, and in the past couple of weeks I learned a lot about the American culture, which I take particular interest in.

There is a common saying that Romney is better for Israel than Obama. This makes the American-Israelis vote rate for him much higher. Many voices here rose, saying Obama is not a real partner for Israel, and that voting for him would be a disaster. To them I want to say that as much as we are important for the Americans (and especially to their President), as a strategic location and as an ally at a not-so-friendly area, we are not the issue that should tilt the vote here or there. It is true Israel was mentioned over 30 times during the debates, but we almost forgot this is not our election, but yours. I believe each person should get up and vote, and later make sure he put the right name for him or her on the ballot. I can only hope all of you did it, in fact. Right now, I can wish the elected president good luck, and to all of you, productivity and calmness for the next four years.

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