- Associated Press - Monday, November 5, 2012

JERUSALEM — American expatriates in Israel are lining up strongly behind Republican candidate Mitt Romney, in contrast to their fellow Jews back in the U.S., according to a survey.

It’s an example of their different priorities and perceptions of U.S. policy.

While American Jews have long backed Democratic presidential candidates, American immigrants in the Jewish state are staunchly Republican. One recent survey estimated that more than 80 percent of expatriate voters here cast absentee ballots for Mr. Romney.

“I hope and pray that Romney will win and he will do what he says he will do,” said Paula Markowitz, a Jerusalem resident originally from Teaneck, N.J. “[President] Obama is no good for Israel, no good for the Jews, no good for America.”

Most Americans who emigrate to Israel are religious Jews who tend to hold socially conservative views typical of Republicans. Their backing for Mr. Romney also reflects a general trend in Israel, where Mr. Obama is widely viewed with suspicion.

Mr. Obama’s early gestures toward the Muslim world raised concerns in Israel, along with his decision to bypass Israel after delivering a landmark speech in neighboring Egypt in 2009. Since then, he has clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a variety of sensitive issues.

“Most Israelis like Obama as a person but are very suspicious about his policies toward Israel, Iran, the Arab Spring and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” said Eytan Gilboa, a specialist on American-Israeli relations at Bar-Ilan University. “They don’t know much about Romney, but they feel he could better accommodate Israeli interests and causes.”

Mr. Obama’s staunch support for Israeli security has done little to change minds.

A survey by iVoteIsrael, a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote organization, found that 85 percent of American voters in Israel cast absentee ballots for Mr. Romney. The group polled 1,572 U.S. expatriates from Oct. 22 to 24, and said the survey had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Israel’s Republicans Abroad organization found the poll consistent with its own internal surveys. Israel’s Democrats Abroad said the survey was biased and unscientific.

According to iVoteIsrael, there are almost 160,000 potential U.S. voters in Israel. The group estimates that half of them cast absentee ballots this year, up from 20,000 in 2008.

“Jews tend to vote in America more than other communities, so it’s not surprising that when they come over, their turnout remains high,” said Eli Pieprz, the group’s director.

It is unclear what impact the American expatriate votes will have. Most immigrants come from the New York area, which appears to be solidly Democratic this year. But there are sizable communities from swing states like Ohio and Florida.



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