Election 2020

Forget FiveThirtyEight—Here’s What Israeli Oracles Are Saying About Trump vs. Biden

Israelis are watching the U.S. presidential race almost as closely as Americans.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

An Israeli billboard supporting U.S. President Donald Trump
An Israeli billboard supporting U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections in Tel Aviv on Oct 21. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel—In most countries, predicting election outcomes is the job of pollsters. In Israel, a newspaper closely aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to consult a different cohort on the question of Donald Trump versus Joe Biden: astrologists, numerologists, and palm readers.

Their unanimous projection was not exactly a surprise given Netanyahu’s close ties to Trump: The U.S. president will win a second term, according to the mystics, though only after a prolonged fight.

“Trump will get reelected, but it won’t be via knockout but on points,” one of them divined in Israel Hayom, the country’s highest-circulation daily. The newspaper is owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson and serves largely as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu.

“The Democrats won’t respect the outcome, and Joe Biden will steal the presidency,” leading to a crisis in the United States, the astrologer added.

The election is dominating headlines in all the Israeli media, alongside news of the gradual easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. In a country often consumed by its own turbulent politics, the American vote has eclipsed just about everything else.

For observers of the relationship between Trump and Netanyahu over the past four years, the fixation shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The U.S. president has given Netanyahu huge political gifts at critical moments, helped Israel forge ties with Arab countries, and crushed Palestinian hopes for viable statehood.

Some 63 percent of Israelis prefer a Trump victory, seeing it as better serving Israeli interests, according to a poll released on Monday by the Israel Democracy Institute; only 17 percent said the same of a Biden win.

The coverage in Israel has become so granular that Amit Segal, a reporter for Channel 12 news, scolded his colleagues on Twitter for wasting their time on issues like “which polling station is more accurate in Pennsylvania.”

“Who cares what you think?” he said. “You’re in Israel.”

The soothsayers of Israel Hayom predicted it would take days or weeks for the election results to become clear in the United States—echoing the projections of more temporal forecasters. They also offered predictions about politics in Israel—where voters might be called on to cast their ballots once again in the coming months.

“Whether or not there will be elections in Israel in the near future, Netanyahu will remain [prime minister]a and the [U.S.-Israel] alliance will continue,” one of them predicted.

[For more of FP’s coverage on the 2020 U.S. election, check out Postcards From the Wedge, our series on how niche foreign-policy issues are playing out in key battleground races, The World’s Election, our collection of articles on how other countries are watching the Nov. 3 vote, and What We’re Missing, a set of daily takes from leading global thinkers on foreign-policy issues not getting enough attention during the campaign.]

Neri Zilber is a journalist covering Middle East politics and an adjunct fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Twitter: @NeriZilber

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