Israeli and American Jews are sharply divided on a wide range of political and religious issues, especially those pertaining to President Donald Trump and U.S.-Israel relations, according to a survey published Sunday by the American Jewish Committee.
The comparison of attitudes was released just ahead of AJC’s annual conference, which is being held in Israel for the first time in the organization’s 112-year history. It revealed deep differences in political opinion between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.
For example, 77 percent of Israelis approve of Trump’s handling of relations between the U.S. and Israel, while only 34 percent of American Jews do. Conversely, a majority of American Jews — 57 percent — disapprove, while just 10 percent of Israelis feel the same way.
Trump has forged close ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau and is seen as more supportive of Israeli government policies than his Democratic and Republican predecessors. The Trump administration’s approach to U.S.-Israel relations was perhaps best illustrated by its decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a change that was widely hailed among Israelis but denounced by Palestinian and other Arab leaders.
The embassy move is one of several issues over which there are profound disagreements between Israeli and American Jews, according to the AJC survey. About 85 percent of Israeli Jews supported the move while just 7 percent were against it.
American Jews, on the other hand, were far more ambivalent — 46 percent supported the move, while 47 percent opposed it.
Differences in political opinion between the two Jewish communities are closely tied to religious identity, the AJC survey found. The vast majority of American Jews identify as either Reform or Conservative, which are both non-Orthodox forms of Judaism. Israel recognizes only Orthodox Judaism as the official form of Judaism.
“Significantly, for both communities, the main factor predicting how people will respond is how they identify religiously,” AJC chief executive David Harris said in a statement accompanying the survey results. “The more observant they are on the denominational spectrum, their Jewish identity and attachment to Israel is stronger; skepticism about prospects for peace with the Palestinians higher; and support for religious pluralism in Israel weaker.”
That phenomenon is illustrated by the wide gap in attitudes about a contentious religious issue: allowing a mixed-gender prayer area next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. More than 70 percent of American Jews express support for it, compared to just 42 percent of Israelis, according to the AJC survey.
The differences between the two communities extend to the political question of Palestinian statehood. While 59 percent of American Jews favor the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the West Bank, only 44 percent of Israelis support the idea.
Among American Jews, political affiliation plays a significant role in determining attitudes about both Washington’s relationship with Jerusalem and religious policies within Israel.
“The majority who identify with the Democratic Party and voted for Hillary Clinton are less attached to Israel, more weakly identified with the Jewish people, and more favorable to religious pluralism than the minority who are Republicans and report that they voted for Donald Trump.”
The AJC poll surveyed 1,000 Israeli and American Jews and had a margin of error of 3.1 and 3.9 percent, respectively.
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