The Israeli chapter of the U.S. Republican Party is getting out the vote for Donald Trump, with a special focus on West Bank settlers.
The campaign is opening two offices in the West Bank, one in a private home in Karnei Shomron in the north and the other in a yet-to-be-decided location in Gush Etzion, a cluster of Jewish settlements south of Jerusalem.
The offices, set to open next week, will reach out to Israelis with American citizenship. According to organizers, this is the first time that an American presidential campaign has opened offices in West Bank settlements. There are four other offices in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Modi’in and Tel Aviv.
The international community considers settlements in the territory Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six Day War illegal, a charge that Israel rejects. Palestinians hope to establish their future state in this area.
According to Tzvika Brot, the director of the Republican Party campaign team in Israel, the decision to open offices in the West Bank has nothing to do with Trump’s position on settlements, even as the Republican candidate for president has said he would support continued West Bank construction. Rather, the West Bank offices will help with strategic outreach to the large numbers of settlers with American citizenship.
“It’s not just as symbolic thing,” Brot said of the West Bank offices.
According to Sara Yael Hirschhorn, an Oxford University professor who focuses on American settlers, about 60,000 of settlers, or 15% of the total number, have American citizenship. There are 200,000 Israelis with American citizenship.
Brot maintains that most American-Israelis vote in the American election solely based on which candidate will be better for Israel. On that issue, he says that Trump is the obvious choice for many. Hillary Clinton’s support for the two-state solution is seen as a “far left” position in Israel, he believes. (In actuality just over half of all Israelis support the two-state paradigm, according to a recent poll.) Hillary’s running mate, Tim Kaine, also tried to block Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 speech before Congress, a point that the Trump campaign in Israel will emphasize.
Brot also says he has the numbers on his side. In the 2012 presidential election, 85% percent of Israelis voted for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate.
Brot said that the West Bank offices will focus on voter registration to help American-Israelis go through the process of requesting and submitting absentee ballots.
Brot, who does not have American citizenship, is one of several Israeli-born Israelis working on a Hebrew campaign to reach out to the children of American immigrants, many of whom where born in Israel, and who are of voting age.
According to a Haaretz report, Brot has close ties with Netanyahu’s Likud party.
The campaign stickers read: “Trump: Also in Israel’s interest.”
Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.