WASHINGTON (JTA) – Israeli and American Jews disagree on much – settlements, religious pluralism, even the degree to which they are “family.”
Now you can add Donald Trump to the mix.
Twin polls of Israeli and American Jews published by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Sunday uncovered divides on all these issues, but an especially stark one about perceptions of the U.S. president.
Asked if they approved of Trump’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, 57 per cent of American Jews disapproved while 34 per cent approved. Among Israeli respondents, the divide was 77 per cent approved while 10 per cent disapproved.
That gap extended to perhaps Trump’s best-known Israel-related policy: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Statistically, American Jews split almost evenly, with 46 per cent supporting and 47 per cent opposing. Israeli Jews were overwhelmingly in favour, with 85 per cent supporting and seven per cent opposing.
There are areas of agreement as well, on the importance of a thriving Israel and a thriving Diaspora to the Jewish future, and on whether being Jewish is a matter of religion or ethnicity.
“The surveys reveal sharp differences of opinion between the world’s two largest Jewish communities on President Trump, U.S.-Israel relations, and Israel’s security and peace process policies,” the AJC said in a release. “On Jewish communal issues, such as Jewish religious equality in Israel, the surveys confirm fissures between American Jews and Israelis, though, at the same time, the data show a degree of commonality in opinions about the vitality of both the Diaspora and the State of Israel and their significance for the future of the Jewish people.”
There’s also a small bright light for Trump stateside: American Jews still overwhelmingly disapprove of him, but not as much as they did the last time AJC polled them – he gained six points, going from 77 to 71, just outside the margin of error of 3.9 percentage points. Favourable ratings climbed five points, from 21 to 26. (By way of contrast, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll last week scored 44 per cent approval ratings for Trump among the general population.)
Other areas of division included:
Settlements: Asked whether Israel should dismantle some, all or none of its West Bank settlements in a peace deal with the Palestinians, four percent of Israeli Jews said all, 35 per cent said some and 54 per cent said none. Among American Jews, 15 per cent said all, 44 per cent said some and 35 per cent said none.
Pluralism: Among American Jews, 80 per cent said non-Orthodox rabbis should be able to officiate at weddings in Israel and 17 per cent said they should not; among Israeli Jews, the split was 49 per cent in favour and 45 per cent against. Asked whether Israel should allow civil marriage, 81 per cent of American Jews said it should while 13 per cent said it should not. A majority of Israeli Jews also favoured civil marriage, but it was a closer split at 55-40.
American Jews favoured by 73 per cent “a mixed-gender prayer area adjacent to the Western Wall administered on an equal basis with the services at the Wall itself,” while 21 per cent were opposed. Among Israeli Jews, the split was 42 per cent in favour and 48 per cent opposed.
Peoplehood: Asked how they viewed Israelis, 12 per cent of American Jews said “siblings,” 15 per cent said “first cousins,” 39 per cent said “extended family” and 31 per cent said “not part of my family.” Affections were greater among Israelis: 28 per cent regarded American Jews as “siblings,” 10 per cent as “first cousins” and 40 per cent as “extended family,” while just 22 per cent said “not part of my family.”
There were areas of agreement, too:
The Jewish future: Among Israeli Jews, 78 per cent thought a “thriving” Diaspora was vital to the future of the Jewish people, while 15 per cent did not. The split among American Jews was 69 per cent agreeing and 17 per cent disagreeing. The same question regarding a “thriving” Israel had 87 per cent approval among Israeli Jews, with six per cent disagreeing, while among American Jews the split was 79 per cent agreeing and 17 per cent disagreeing.
Jewish identity: 56 per cent of American Jews said being Jewish was “mostly a matter of ethnicity or culture,” while 24 per cent said it was mostly a matter of religion and 17 per cent said it was both equally. Among Israeli Jews, the split was 40 per cent believing ethnicity and culture were more important, 19 per cent listing religion and 37 per cent listing both.
The Israeli poll, carried out by Geocatography, reached 1,000 Jews over the age of 18 by phone in May. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
The American poll was carried out by SSRS; it reached 1,001 Jews over the age of 18 by phone between April 18 and May 10, and has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.