Israel Elections: Israelis abroad aim to increase voter turnout

Effort modeled after Move On campaign in US

 A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahead of the April 2019 election, Offir Gutelzon joined at least 100 other Israeli expatriates who flew home from the San Francisco Bay Area hoping to vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of office.
Three elections and a pandemic later, he will not be traveling to Israel to vote in the March 23 election, even if Ben-Gurion Airport opens in time.
So Gutelzon, who heads the San Francisco-based organization UneXptable-Saving Israeli Democracy, found a new way to influence the election without leaving California. The group, which has organized anti-Netanyahu protests around the world, is fundraising among expatriates to help get out the vote among Israelis who are in the country.
In a campaign called “My Vote Will Bring Change,” the organization is asking Israelis abroad to help fund ads on social media in which Israelis who want a political upheaval say they are voting for change. The ads will be localized for each community to maximize their impact.
The effort is modeled after a campaign run by the political action committee Move On in the United States.
“Just like in the US, turning out low propensity voters in Israel can deliver change for peace, pluralism and integrity in government,” Gutelzon wrote to potential donors. “Just like in the US, people talking with people in their own communities about the importance of voting is the best way to increase turnout. The good news is that Israel is a small country, so a little bit of support goes a long way.”
The campaign will target both Jewish and Arab voters in hopes of maintaining the 70% general turnout in the last election and the 64% Arab turnout. But Gutelzon stressed that the effort is not aimed at helping or harming any particular party, which would be a violation of fundraising laws.
“We are not representing any party, just Israelis who care about strengthening democracy in Israel,” he said. “We are just encouraging getting out the vote among Israelis in different sectors with different opinions.”
This is just one of many efforts to get out the vote. The Likud complained about an anti-Netanyahu campaign in the 2015 election called V15, which at the time also said its goal was merely to maximize turnout.
The Likud accused V15 of being a form of foreign intervention, in part because one of the organizations backing it, One Voice, had received support from the US State Department under then-president Barack Obama and because Obama’s 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, was a consultant for V15. The organization denied any connection to the Obama administration.
The Likud said it would appeal to the Central Elections Committee against all such efforts.
“Once again, in this election, there are illegal efforts, funded by foreign governments, to overturn the government of the Right and bring Yair Lapid the premiership,” the Likud said in a statement.
Yesh Atid declined to comment about either the effort by UneXptable or the Likud’s response.