American-Israelis 'Must Get Out And Vote'

NY Congressional candidate: US citizens in Israel should register absentee ballots to stop Obama, Kerry 'bullying' Israel into concessions

Ari Soffer ,

Bruce Blakeman at the Kotel
Bruce Blakeman at the Kotel
Yoni Kempinski

New York Congressional candidate Bruce Blakeman has called on American Jews living in Israel to exercise their constitutional rights and register for absentee ballots, to enable them to have their say in upcoming elections and counter efforts to pressure Israel by the Obama administration.

Blakeman, a Republican candidate for New York's 4th Congressional District, has made Israeli rights a key part of his platform, and says his recent high-profile visit to frontline Israeli communities had strengthened his resolve to defend the Jewish state should he be elected come November 4th.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are not acting as allies at all, instead trying to "bully" Israel into making concessions that were not in its interest, he said. And if American Jews - whether in the US or abroad - want to change that, they need to turn up on election day.

"I do not believe the Palestinian Authority are sincere about pursuing a comprehensive peace agreement," Blakeman said. "I believe that at this time giving up land for a bad deal would put Israel in danger, and I will fight against President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry when I get into Congress if they try to bully Israel into what I believe is a bad deal for Israel and the Jewish people."

But Blakeman says the current diplomatic process is flawed on a much more fundamental level, in that it calls for outside parties such as the United Nations - which do not necessarily have Israel's best interests at heart - to impose a settlement externally.

Instead, he insists a resolution needs to be forged between the two parties alone - Israel and the Palestinians - but that in the absence of a serious partner Israel should not be pushed into making unilateral concessions just for the sake of "the process."

"I do not believe in the UN, and I disagree very strongly with the approach of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry with respect to Israel and negotiations with the Palestinians."

"First of all, you need someone to negotiate with," he pointed out - something he feels simply does not exist on the Palestinian side.

Israel's main negotiating partner, Mahmoud Abbas, does not even possess political legitimacy or real control over the Palestinian Authority he is supposed to govern, and relies heavily on Israeli and western support to prop him up, Blakeman notes. On the other hand, "Hamas certainly has no desire for peace, and therefore I do not feel at this time that there is any party that Israel can engage with in any peace negotiations."

"If you're an American Jew living in Israel and you agree with that assessment, you really need to get out there and register your absentee ballot," he said. Ballots must be registered by 5 p.m. New York time tomorrow, October 28.

Blakeman also emphasized that the very formula currently being proscribed for Arab-Israeli peace - "the so-called 'two-state solution'" - is problematic, and that more efforts needed to be made to both recognize its abject failure and search for creative alternatives.

That belief was "reinforced" by his trip to Israel back in August, he said. During that time he made an effort to take the road less traveled, touring not only major sites such as Jerusalem and central Israel, but also visiting southern Israeli communities battered by rocket fire from Gaza, as well as the Samaria (Shomron) region, to speak firsthand to residents in those regions which are so often in the headlines but rarely visited by opinion-makers.

"I believe that if Israel gives up land that is strategically important for Israel's defense... that that would be mistake, and my trip to the other side of the 'Green Line', my visits to Shomron, as well as to Sderot and Ashkelon... really just reinforced what I already know: that Israel should determine its own  borders, that it is important that Israel remain strong, and that the so-called 'settlements', which should really just be called 'communities', are people who are hard-working, decent and peace-loving," he said.

"They are not fanatics - they are people who want to live in peace. They have made something of their communities, they have built universities and hospitals, they have built businesses, they have built homes... I think it's a beautiful thing. It is part of Israel and it should remain part of Israel."

Despite the fact that some two thirds of his district are not Jewish, but Catholic (mostly Irish- and Italian-Americans) he says his positions enjoy widespread support, and that "Christians overwhelmingly support Israel."

But if the US should not be pushing for concessions then what role, if any, can it play?

According to Blakeman, a realignment in US policy towards greater accountability regarding where American aid is going should be the government's number one priority - particularly given that the US is the single biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority. Taxpayers' money, he says, should not be used to "fund terrorism" and fuel the conflict.

"I would initiate measures in my bills that prohibit America from giving any more money to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas (in Gaza) for 'humanitarian purposes,' unless it can be completely verified that the money is actually being used for humanitarian purposes and not to build tunnels and buy rockets.

"It is a national scandal for the United States that American taxpayer dollars bought the rockets that were shot into Israel, and the tunnels that were built to murder Israelis."