Thousands of eligible absentee voters may have significant impact on elections.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani already had presidential campaign organizations set up in all 50 US states; now he also has one in the State of Israel.
The thousands of eligible absentee voters in Israel could have a significant impact on who will win the Republican and Democratic nominations. Giuliani is running first in a close Republican race.
Giuliani Supporters in Israel is a grass-roots effort to mobilize the support of Israelis with US citizenship that was set up by Mordechai Twersky, a former Bronx, New York, communal leader and candidate for the New York State Assembly and the Knesset who was cited by Giuliani for his communal work.
Although the organization was not officially authorized by Giuliani, his campaign staff has already made contact with Twersky and endorsed his effort.
The Republicans and Democrats Abroad organizations have long been active here ahead of presidential elections but Twersky said this was the first time a campaign has been set up in Israel to help a candidate ahead of party primaries.
Twersky has set up a Web site at giulianisupportersinisrael.org with extensive information about Giuliani's relationship with Israel, going back to his October 1995 ousting of Yasser Arafat from a concert for world leaders at Manhattan's Lincoln Center.
Twersky said he eventually wants to hold regular parlor meetings throughout the country to convince as many eligible voters as possible that Giuliani is the best qualified candidate to meet the threats facing the Unites States, Israel and the Free World in the years to come.
"I did this as a private personal initiative as a proud American and Israeli citizen, and I am confident that it will catch on," said Twersky, 43. "Israel will need a friend in the White House who will bring clarity and consistency to US foreign policy and preserve the safety and security of its lone Middle East ally."
Democrats Abroad's counsel in Israel, Sheldon Schorer, said he had no problem with a campaign being set up in Israel to endorse a particular candidate in an American election. But he said there was much difference between the leading candidates on the Israel issue.
"Americans voting from abroad vote for the best candidate, and that means not only who is best for Israel but who is best for America as well, who has the most experience and who is the best possible leader for the free world," Schorer said. "On the Israel issue, it turns out to be a wash. Giuliani and top democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are all strong supporters of Israel and I am sure the voters will see that as well."
Schorer does have a problem, however, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's perceived hints in media interviews that he supports Giuliani, with whom he forged a close friendship when he was mayor of Jerusalem and Giuliani was mayor of New York.
"It is highly appropriate for Americans in Israel to be involved in American politics but it is highly inappropriate for the Israeli government to express a preference for one personality or another who could lead the American people," Schorer said. "It's their job to work with whoever Americans choose to lead America."
A representative of Republicans Abroad in Israel said the organization would stay neutral ahead of the Republican primaries and then campaign on behalf of whoever wins the nomination.
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