Netanyahu’s Embrace of Trump Is Driving U.S. Jews Away From Israel, Survey Shows

Less observant Jews were more likely to feel that their connection to Israel had weakened in recent years, poll commissioned by U.S.-based Ruderman Family Foundation says

Judy Maltz
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Netanyahu and Trump embrace at the East Room in the White House, Washington D.C., July 17, 2019
Netanyahu and Trump embrace at the East Room in the White House, Washington D.C., July 17, 2019 Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Judy Maltz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for U.S. President Donald Trump and his policies is the main reason for growing disenchantment with Israel among American Jews, a survey published on Tuesday shows.

The other top reasons are the growing power of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox forces in Israeli politics, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, its settlement policy in the West Bank, and its disenfranchisement of non-Orthodox Jews.

The survey, commissioned by the U.S.-based Ruderman Family Foundation, included 2,500 respondents with a statistical deviation of 1.96 percent.

The respondents were asked what they thought were “one of the most important reasons” American Jews were feeling less connected to Israel. Thirty-nine percent listed Netanyahu’s support for Trump, while 33 percent listed the growing power of right-wing and religious forces in Israel.

One out of four respondents cited the treatment of Palestinians and Israeli settlement policies as their top gripes, while one out of five listed policies that disenfranchise non-Orthodox Jews.

Only 24 percent of American Jews voted for Donald Trump in 2016. American Jews have traditionally supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would include at least a partial dismantling of the West Bank settlements.

Among the respondents, a greater share (39 percent) believed the relationship between American Jews and Israel had weakened in the past five years than strengthened (32 percent).

The survey found that less observant Jews were more likely to feel that their connection to Israel had weakened in recent years. Among Orthodox Jews, 50 percent said that their connection to Israel had strengthened in the past five years, while only 5 percent said it had weakened.

Among Reform Jews, however, 21 percent said that their connection had strengthened, while 28 percent said it had weakened.

Although a large majority – 80 percent of respondents – defined themselves as “pro-Israel,” many had reservations about the government's actions: 28 percent reported being critical of “some” Israeli policies and 29 percent of “many” Israeli policies.

Finally, nearly one third of the respondents said they were “not very” or “not at all” attached to Israel.

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