Ari Fleischer kicks off RJC voter drive in Israel

JTA REPORT

The audience, most of which appeared to be Romney supporters, also heard on Tuesday night from RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. Fleischer served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary and is an RJC board member. 

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Brooks and Fleischer are in Israel this week to persuade American Jews living here to register to vote and to cast a ballot for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. They are hoping that Israel’s American expatriate community may provide a small bump to Romney come Election Day on Nov. 6.

“Imagine it’s Nov. 6, you wake up, you don’t vote, you hear we have another razor-thin election,” Fleischer told the group. Israel’s 150,000 Jews, he said, are “the size of Dayton, you’re the size of Ft. Lauderdale. You’re a longer plane trip, but you’re equally important.”

The audience of mostly middle-aged religious expatriates contrasted sharply with the 23 college students sitting in the front rows who were gray T-shirts bearing the words “Return of the right” below a picture of a blue and white eagle flying into a red star. They were on a two-week Israel trip organized by Young Jewish Conservatives.

Brooks outlined “existential threat from a nuclear Iran,” the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and “civil war in Syria,” also touching on the U.S. economy and jobs.

When Fleischer spoke about “how proud I was” to represent Bush on live TV, an audience member drew applause for yelling, “We’re proud of you, too!” Fleischer, criticizing President Obama, said, “The choice is between pushing Israel around as President Obama has done, and Gov. Romney, who will stand strong by Israel’s side.”

The event and the Brooks-Fleischer trip was organized by iVoteIsrael, an American nonprofit dedicated to registering Americans to vote in Israel. Under each seat lay an absentee ballot registration form and a pen. Elie Pieprz, who runs iVoteIsrael, stressed that the group is nonpartisan and promoted upcoming visits from “high-profile Democratic personalities.”

About three quarters of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, but in that election about that same percentage of Americans living in Israel voted for his GOP opponent, Sen. John McCain, according to the Los Angeles Times.