Elections in Israel will take place in January and the campaign season is already in works. A recent report from Israel’s state comptroller’s office found that in the past two years campaign funding has prominently come from outside of Israel. A political analyst for the The Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman, sits in on a weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Natanyahu and observes the campaign planning in action. Referring to the fundraisers for the campaign, Hoffman states,
“They look for any loophole they can. And if they can get away with doing most of their fundraising abroad or doing it before the election period begins … whatever they can get away with.”
Funding for campaigns is a huge topic currently in the United States and in Israel. The graph below compares the funds raised by each US Presidential candidate campaign. The article, “The 2012 Money Race: Compare the Candidates” from the New York Times, goes on to give a breakdown of where the money comes from. Each party has raised significant amounts of money through the candidates, the party committees, and Super PAC’s (Political Action Committee), which are an independent committee unaffiliated with the candidate or political party, but raises funds in support of the chosen candidate. If the US presidential campaigns are receiving funding from outside the US it is not a substantial amount.
In contrast, a trend is growing amongst campaign fundraisers in Israel. More than 90% of the sitting Prime Minister Netanyahu funds come from foreign contributors, most prominently the United States. A lawmaker from the Independence Party of Israel relates diaspora Jews responsible for the majority of donations. This lawmaker, Einat Wilf, noted on the subject,
“Should you allow some money to come from individuals abroad? It’s not ideal. I would say that the vast majority comes from Jews abroad, and that reflects … call it a sense of solidarity, a sense of involvement in the Jewish community in what happens in Israeli elections.”
One candidate, Shelly Yachimovich, of the liberal Labor Party, has gone against the trends and funded her entire budget inside Israel to advertise her domestic credentials. Einat Wilf expands on the subject of it being a choice of the candidate, but it is easy to understand why many accept these out of country donations. For Americans, to support a campaign generally means donating money. Jews living in the United States respond the same to politics in Israel. It’s not just the United States; Jews all over the world are responding to the campaigns and backing with their funded support. Obviously because of Israel’s Jewish State, this aspect of campaigning differs from US elections, where religion is a topic but not the majority of income for fundraisers.
A similar religious focus with fundraising is brought up in the US presidential campaign. The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon and this has played a significant yet reserved role in his campaign. Mormon’s have power with their money and have in the past lead changes to US law and amendments. For example, with the Mormon support and massive fundraising efforts from within their community they played a dominating role in overturning gay marriage rights, which is in opposition to their religious beliefs, in the state of California when they pushed for Proposition 8 to be passed. Now, Mitt Romney does not advertise that he was once a Mormon Bishop and he will not release the amount of money he donates to the institution. The fundraising Mormons are donating towards Mitt Romney’s campaign is currently unknown to the public.
(Photo credit: AP Huffington Post)
Israel is a Jewish state and therefore the immense amount of fundraising provided by disapora Jews is not very surprising. However, in the US it is a different scenario due to our separation of church and state. Is it surprising that religious affiliations are fundraising for political campaigns in the US? Do you agree with this type of fundraising for the US and Israel? How much influence do you think religion has or should have on American politics? Finally, what are your views on candidates for Israel’s election gaining the great majority of their funds from the US?