Jewish Israelis Love Trump


The Trump administration on Monday celebrated moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. But ever since the move was announced in December, it has been condemned in the Middle East and around the world. The Arab League called the embassy relocation a “blatant attack on the feelings of Arabs and Muslims” and a “grave violation of the rules of international law” that could destabilize the region. British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.” Meanwhile, at the Gaza border, tens of thousands of Palestinians protested the embassy move—and Israeli fire killed dozens of them and wounded hundreds.

Americans, for their part, are divided on President Donald Trump’s approach to U.S.-Israeli relations. But there’s at least one group outside the United States that overwhelmingly supports the embassy move, according to a new University of Maryland poll: Jewish Israelis. Overall, 73 percent of them support moving the embassy, including the timing of it.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem surprising that Israeli Jews would agree on this matter. But in fact, they are a group deeply divided on many domestic and foreign policy issues, including the path forward on Palestinian relations. And since Jerusalem has both religious and political significance, one would expect variations across the religious/secular divide within Judaism. On the embassy issue, however, Jewish Israelis seem to have banded together to support Trump’s move—to the point that they also strongly support the U.S. president himself, in contrast with most Americans and indeed most people around the world, who hold unfavorable views of Trump.

Of course, Arab citizens of Israel—who constitute about one-fifth of the Israeli population—view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the U.S. Embassy move much differently from Jewish Israelis. In the poll—conducted among a representative sample of 650 Israeli Jews from May 6-9—my colleagues and I chose to focus on Jewish Israelis because we wanted to find out if there are substantial differences among Israeli Jews, including on the embassy issue. Where Israeli Jews diverge, according to the poll, is on how much sovereignty Israel should hold over East Jerusalem, the largely Arab part of the city that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and that Palestinians would claim as the capital of a future Palestinian state. That disagreement, at least, suggests that a large segment of Jewish Israelis might be open to ceding parts of East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state if a peace agreement ever materialized (keeping in mind that all of East Jerusalem is occupied territories in the eyes of the United Nations).

On the question of the U.S. Embassy move, the poll found that only 5 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose the decision. Even among secular Israeli Jews, only 8 percent oppose the move. In addition to the 73 percent of Israeli Jews who support moving the embassy, including the timing of it, another 20 percent support the move but would have preferred that Trump had waited until he unveiled his plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (For the record, the poll was fielded by phone by Statnet; the margin of error of was 3.92 percent.)

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