Wednesday, August 1, 2018

American Jews vs. Israeli Jews - How Divided Are They?

The Trump's Administrations recent overtures to Israel through the movement of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem continues Washington's decades-long tradition of appeasing America's Jewish voters.  That said, a recent survey of American and Jewish opinions by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) gives us an interesting insight into how the opinions of American Jews vary from Jews who live in Israel.   Let's take a look at some of the highlights from the survey and how respondents felt about key issues which will help us get a better understanding of Washington's relationship with Israel and how that relationship is regarded by both nation's Jewish citizens.

Issue #1 - Donald Trump's handling of the U.S. - Israel relationship.  

The question asked by the survey was as follows:

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Trump is handling U.S.-Israel relations?"

Here is a table showing the very significant gap between the two groups:


As you can see, 57 percent of American Jews disagree (either somewhat or strongly) with Trump's approach to Israel.  This is in sharp contrast to the 77 percent of Israeli Jews who approve (either somewhat or strongly) with Trump's approach to their home nation.  Interestingly, when it comes to the recent move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, only 46 percent of U.S. Jews approve compared to 85 percent of Israeli Jews.

Issue #2 - The peace process between Israel and Palestine.

The question asked by the survey was as follows:

"In the current situation, do you favour or oppose a two-state solution through the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the West Bank?"

Here is a table showing the significant gap between the two groups:


Once again, there is a strong divide between the two groups; 59 percent of American Jews favour the two-state solution compared to only 44 percent of Israeli Jews  As well, 68 percent of Israeli Jews believe that it is not appropriate for American Jews to attempt to influence Israeli policies on issues including peace negotiations with the Palestinians and national security whereas 53 percent of American Jews believe that it is appropriate.  Additionally, 15 percent of American Jews believe that Israel should be willing to dismantle all of its controversial settlements compared to only 4 percent of Israeli Jews.

Issue #3 - Israeli and American Jewish relations.

The question asked by the survey was as follows:

"Using the metaphor of a family, do you consider Israeli Jews as your siblings, first cousins, extended family or not part of my family?

Here is a table showing the responses of the two groups:


Interestingly, nearly one-third (31%) of American Jews do not consider Israeli Jews as part of their family compared to only 22 percent of Israeli Jews.  As well, only 27% of American Jews believe that Israeli Jews are the equivalent of close family members compared to 38 percent of Israeli Jews.  In addition, 17 percent of American Jews believe that a thriving State of Israel is not important for the long-term future of the Jewish people compared to a minuscule 6 percent of Israeli Jews.

It is quite apparent that there are significant differences between American Jews and Israeli Jews on these three key issues.

Let's take a quick look at how American Jews responded to questions that were not asked of Israeli Jews on some key domestic issues, giving us a strong sense of their political leanings:

1.) Is your opinion of the job President Trump is doing favourable or unfavourable:

Favourable - 26 percent
Unfavourable - 71 percent

2.) In the presidential election of 2016, whom did you vote for?

Hillary Clinton - 60 percent
Donald Trump - 19 percent
Didn't Vote - 11 percent

3.) Compared to a year ago, do you think that Americans are more united or more divided over their most important values?

More united - 10 percent
More divided - 82 percent
About the same - 5 percent

4.) Compared to a year ago, is the status of Jews in the United States more secure or less secure?

More secure - 18 percent
Less secure - 55 percent
About the same - 24 percent

5.) If the election for U.S. Congress were held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate in your district?

Republican - 20 percent
Democrat - 67 percent

6.) In your opinion, which foreign nation poses the single greatest danger to the United States?

China - 10 percent
North Korea - 17 percent
Iran - 18 percent
Russia - 44 percent

7.) What do you think is more important - to protect the rights of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership?

To protect the rights to own guns - 25 percent
To control gun ownership - 70 percent

The results of these polls by the American Jewish Council provide us with some key insights about how one of America's most influential voting groups feels about the Trump Administration and its relationship to Israel.  As the results show, despite Donald Trump's highly publicized overtures to Israel and his vilification of Iran (along with Benjamin Netanyahu), he has done very little to ensure that American Jewish voters will vote Republican in either 2018 or 2020.  As well, the sharp divide on key issues between Israeli Jews and American Jews suggests that the current state of Israel is far less important to Jews living in the United States than we are generally led to believe and that the Jews in Israel are far less enamoured with the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue than their American counterparts, a finding that should impact Washington's approach to the problem.


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