Members of the Republican Party’s Israel branch held a post-election celebration last week to revel in the recent White House win and thank volunteers for their work in promoting the Republican nominee.
Among those in attendance were attorney and head of the GOP’s Israel branch Marc Zell, director of the Trump campaign in Israel Tzvika Brot, strategic advisor Ariel Sander, and other campaign staffers including Dana Mizrachi, Roni Arzi, and Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan, who had publicly endorsed Trump prior to the election.
During the gathering, Zell explained the strategy behind Donald Trump’s campaign push in Israel.
While Zell noted that despite the strong margin Trump won Israeli-American voters, there were too few absentee ballots cast from Israel to alter the outcome of the election.
"There were over a 100,000 people - maybe well over a 100,000 people that voted in this election from Israel, and 80% roughly voted for Donald Trump. We can be proud of that. But those votes didn't determine the outcome of this election directly. As you know, the difference in the major states like Florida was greater than the number of votes we had here."
But, argued Zell, Trump’s heavy campaign efforts in Israel, which included opening multiple field offices and conducting the first-ever get out the vote operation by an American campaign in Israel, had a significant indirect effect on the election that was critical for the GOP victory.
"What it did do, and this is something I didn't appreciate until I was in the United States and I heard it from many people, the votes here in Israel were instrumental - fundamentally instrumental - in causing the Evangelical Christians in the United States to vote in numbers that were more than 15-20% more than they were in 2012. And that was the difference in most of the states that gave Donald Trump the victory. So I want you to know that they… in the Trump campaign and in the Republican National Committee understand the importance of what we did here."
The impact, Zell claimed, of public, visible support for Trump in Israel in encouraging massive turnout among Evangelicals for the GOP cannot be exaggerated.
"We literally changed history. Let me just give you an example about this. The Vice President [elect Mike Pence] called up and said, 'Great, kol hakavod'... saw the Hebrew [Trump campaign] sign on the air plane and he said 'You guys were the difference.' And I said, 'How could that be?' I was at a Bar Mitzva in Princeton, New Jersey the week of the election."
"Somebody from Florida who knows me came up and brought me a newspaper. It was a newspaper printed for Evangelical Christians. And on the front cover was a picture of me - I'm not trying to brag about it... standing in my office with these famous buttons here. And the lead story was 'Israeli-Americans are coming to the polls and supporting Trump in large numbers and we should do the same. And that's what happened. On Twitter I said another notice on an article that's coming out next week by an Evangelical activist. The title of the article is 'Did the Israelis get the Evangelicals to vote in the United States?', and of course the answer is yes."