Israeli Trump supporters open campaign office in West Bank

  • World
  • Tuesday, 06 Sep 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence looks on (R) while meeting with local labor leaders and union members during a campaign stop in Brook Park, Ohio, U.S. September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli supporters of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have opened a campaign office in the occupied West Bank, saying they hope to get as many American expatriates as possible to cast an absentee ballot for their candidate.

There are about 300,000 U.S. citizens in Israel, according to the non-profit group Republican Overseas Israel, which opened the office in the Jewish settlement Karnei Shomron on Monday. It estimates as many as 80,000 of them live in the West Bank, though it is not clear how many are eligible voters.

The initiative has no official ties to the Trump campaign or the Republican National Committee (RNC), and the Israeli group opened the West Bank office, and a handful of others throughout Israel, with its own funds, said co-chairman Marc Zell.

"We are however in close coordination with the Trump campaign and RNC to the extent that it's feasible," said Zell.

A poll of Jewish Israelis conducted in May found 40 percent of respondents backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and 31 percent supported Trump. The poll did not specify whether those who responded were eligible to vote in the U.S. election.

Trump has accused the administration of President Barack Obama of lacklustre support for Israel. He has also rejected last year's nuclear deal with Iran, Israel's arch-foe, and has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The new office in the West Bank is not staffed full-time but will be used as a "logistical jumping-off point" for outreach activity, Zell said.

Israel captured the West Bank, land where Palestinians hope to establish an independent state, in the 1967 Middle East war.

Most countries view Israeli settlements built there as illegal and an obstacle for peace. Israel rejects this, saying Jews have been living in the territory for thousands of years.

The U.S. presidential election takes place on Nov. 8.

(Reporting by Eli Berlizon; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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