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How Should an American Israeli Vote in the U.S. Election?

My absentee ballot finally arrived this week.

I felt a little wave of excitement when I pulled it from my mailbox. Proud of my right to vote, I have never missed an election.

I am also proud that as an American citizen living in Israel, I retain the right to vote for president of the United States. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, so I considered the candidates and the issues carefully before filling out my absentee ballots for the elections in 2000 and 2004.

As an Israeli American, I believe voting in a U.S. election means voting for the candidate I believe is best for America, not just for Israel. It doesn’t feel right to vote solely based on Israel simply because I live here.

While I recognize there are many one-issue voters, I have never been one and do not intend to start now.

Besides, my family and friends still live in the United States, and I want them to live in the best possible America.

The 2000 election took place shortly after we moved to Israel, and at the time I felt more American than Israeli. Punching that ballot — without leaving any hanging chads! — made me feel both homesick and attached to home at the same time.

By the 2004 election, I hesitated before requesting an absentee ballot. It’s not that I didn’t want to vote in the election. I had been following the campaign via CNN and Fox News, as well as by reading American newspapers online. I knew I had a right as a U.S. citizen and as a taxpayer to vote, but I also felt more Israeli than American.

In the end my American patriotism overcame my ambivalence and I cast my ballot.

Many of my expat American friends living in Israel do not vote in the U.S. elections. Most have been living here for at least a decade and say they no longer feel connected enough to vote. I hope I never feel that way.

I have enjoyed watching many newly minted Israeli Americans here voting with alacrity in their first presidential election as expats. I know just how they feel.

This year, some of my longtime Israeli-American friends have requested absentee ballots for the first time in many years because they believe John McCain would be much better for Israel or have bought into the canards about Barack Obama. I don’t think they feel more connected to America, just more concerned about Israel.

When I received my ballot this week, it was disconcerting to realize that I’m still unsure of who to vote for.

I have almost always leaned toward the Democratic candidates on domestic issues. But my foreign policy interests, especially since moving to Israel, tend to slant Republican.

Both domestic social issues and foreign policy issues are important and figure into my decision as a voter, and with the current candidates I cannot reconcile the two.

A columnist recently wrote in one of Israel’s dailies that the best candidate for Israel is the person who is best for America.

Now if I could only figure out who that is.

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