Israelis, US Jews Differ Dramatically on Obama

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Have American Jews abandoned Israel in favor of President Obama? This is a central question in the minds of Israelis today.



In a poll of Israeli Jews conducted in mid-June by the Jerusalem Post, a mere 6 percent of respondents said they view Obama as pro-Israel. In stark contrast, a Gallup tracking poll in early May showed that 79 percent of American Jews support the president.






These numbers seem to tell us that U.S. Jews have indeed parted company with the Jewish state.






No American president has ever been viewed as similarly ill disposed toward Israel by Israelis. With only 6 percent seeing the administration as friendly, it is apparent that distrust of Obama is not a partisan issue in Israel. It spans the spectrum from far left to right, from ultra-Orthodox to ultra-secular. But with his 79-percent approval rating among U.S. Jews, it is clear the American Jewish community is quite sympathetically inclined toward Obama.






Appearances of course can be deceptive. And it is worth taking a closer look at the numbers to understand what they tell us about American Jewish sentiments regarding Obama and Israel. First, however, we should consider what it is about Obama that makes nearly all Israeli Jews view him as an adversary.






The Jerusalem Post poll showed a massive divergence between Israeli Jews and Obama on the issue of Jewish building beyond the 1949 armistice line. The Obama administration has refused to budge in its hard-line demand that Israel end all Jewish building in north, south, and east Jerusalem as well as in Judea and Samaria.






For its part, the Netanyahu government has refused to bow to this demand. Seventy percent of Israeli Jews support the Netanyahu government’s handling of the issue with the Obama administration and 69 percent oppose a freeze on Jewish building.






Beyond Obama’s agitation on the issue of Jewish construction, Israelis are dismayed by what they perceive as the generally hostile approach he has adopted in dealing with the Jewish state. This approach was nowhere more in evidence than in his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo on June 4.






It wasn’t just Obama’s comparison of Palestinian terrorism to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, the American civil rights movement and antebellum slave rebellions that set people off. There was also Obama’s inference that Israel owes its legitimacy to the Holocaust.






It is that claim – Obama repeated it during his visit to Buchenwald – which forms the basis of the Islamic narrative against Israel. It argues that Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East, and that the only thing keeping Israel in place is European guilt about Auschwitz. Not only do Israelis of all political stripes reject this as factually false, they recognize it is inherently anti-Semitic because it ignores and negates 3,500 years of Jewish history in the land of Israel.






With Israeli distrust of Obama so apparent, and so easily explained, two questions arise: How has Obama managed to maintain American Jewish support despite his unprecedented unpopularity in Israel? And what is the likelihood that when push comes to shove, American Jews will stand with Israel against the president they so admire?






Obama’s great success in maintaining support among American Jews owes much to the fact that most American Jews do not pick up the same messages from Obama’s statements as do Israeli Jews. Whereas Israeli Jews recognize that it is morally obscene, strategically suicidal and historically inaccurate to suggest that Israel has no rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and that Jews have no right to live there, American Jews do not intuitively understand this to be the case. Consequently, while Israeli Jews recognize Obama’s calls for a total freeze in Jewish construction in these areas as inherently hostile, most American Jews do not.






Beyond this, for the past 15 years, Holocaust education – more so than Zionist education or Jewish religious education – has become the hallmark of American Jewish identity. As a consequence, American Jews may not see anything objectionable in Obama’s inference that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust.






If the divergence in U.S. Jewish and Israeli attitudes toward Obama is simply a consequence of a lack of American Jewish awareness of the significance of Obama’s positions and policies for Israel, then the disparity in views can be easily remedied by a sustained issues awareness campaign by Israel and by American Jewish organizations. For many of Israel’s core American Jewish supporters, such a campaign would no doubt go a long way in energizing them to challenge the administration on its positions vis-à-vis Israel.






But there are other factors at work. According to the American Jewish Committee’s 2008 survey of American Jews, some 67 percent of American Jews feel close to Israel. These numbers, while high, are not significantly higher than similar support levels among the general U.S. population. (A survey of general American sentiment toward Israel conducted this month by the Israel Project shows that support for Israel has dropped by 20 percent in the past nine months – from 69 to 49 percent. Presumably, Jewish American support for Israel has also experienced a drop.)






More significantly, the AJC survey showed that in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential elections, only three percent of American Jews said a candidate’s position on Israel was the most important issue for them. Indeed, according to survey after survey of American Jewish opinion over the past decade, U.S. Jewish support for Israel, while widespread, is not particularly deep. This sentiment lends to the conclusion that American Jews will not abandon or temper their support for Obama simply because he is perceived as being hostile to Israel.






The picture, then, is a mixed bag. Support for Israel against Obama will likely rise as a consequence of a sustained educational campaign among American Jews about the issues in dispute and their importance for Israel’s security and national well-being. But even in that event, it is unclear how dramatic the shift would be. Given the shallowness of U.S. Jewish support for Israel, no doubt many American Jews will not care enough to reassess their positions on either Israel or Obama.






The one bit of encouraging news in all this is the persistence of support for Israel relative to Palestinians among rank and file Americans. Palestinians are supported by a mere five percent of Americans.






No doubt it is this disparity that is motivating leading Democratic politicians – most recently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey – to publicly distance themselves from the administration’s Mideast policies.






If U.S. Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists can educate just a fraction of the American Jewish community, and motivate them to stand with Israel in a significant way against administration pressure, this will likely motivate still more lawmakers and politicians from both parties to maintain support for Israel against the administration. Certainly it will help convince Israelis we haven’t been abandoned by American Jewry. And that in itself would be no mean achievement.



Originally published in The Jewish Press. 


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  • Marc Handelsman, USA 06/25/2009 at 20:11

    American Jewry has not abandoned Israel. There is a core of US Jews that are ardent Zionists. The average American voter knows that Israelis are the good guys compared to the PLO. The reason President Obama has much American Jewish support is that many Jews are liberals. Today’s liberal Jewish voters are descendants of New Deal Democrats that supported President Roosevelt. Many American Jews are assimilated and have comfortable lives in the States. The best way to show support for Israel is by visiting there, and writing your congressman.

  • Philip Safran 06/25/2009 at 21:31

    When speaking of American Jews, especially the 80% or so who are liberals, we need to remember they are socially Jewish, religiously liberal and their holy sacrament is abortion. Israel is not very important to them and when they do think about Israel it is largely with hostility.

  • Char 06/26/2009 at 2:21

    I applaud Ms. Glick for her brilliant insights. I think American liberal Jews have some kind of psychological illness, their neuroses have morphed into something self-destructive – as it is self-destructive for them to abandon Israel for their new-found “god”, “O”. I’ve been trying to figure it out, and I just can’t. We Jews are supposed to be so smart, right? Why is it so hard to admit that you’ve been wrong? The gentiles can see it – I am ashamed of my generation, they worship money, material possessions and achievement and are afraid to “rock the boat” in their assimilation to what is (sadly) becoming Babylon Revisited.

  • Kay 06/26/2009 at 3:31

    Please remember that American Jews, whether labeled liberal or not, have two countries to consider, and their needs are not the same. Obama was elected and is supported because he was the best candidate to lead the US, not Israel. Supporting him does not make one anti-Israel. But it challenges us to be strong and active in influencing his decisions regarding Israel. It’s also important to remember that Israel, as a sovereign nation, democratically elected its leaders to lead Israel, not to follow the US. They must do what’s right for Israel.

  • John B 06/26/2009 at 3:37

    The linking of the establishment of Israel to the Holocaust has been a very clever ploy by the enemy of Israel. I have always felt that this awful event (which haunted my school days with books such as Milla 18)was given too much religious significance.
    It was a nightmare from the horror of hell. But, indeed, it was not the justification for Israel, which needed no justification. As you point out, 3,500 years of history (and beyond) does not need justification from the last 100.
    This emphasis which, in your words: “. . . for the past 15 years, Holocaust education – more so than Zionist education or Jewish religious education – has become the hallmark of American Jewish identity. As a consequence, American Jews may not see anything objectionable in Obama’s inference that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust. . . ” has been a most subtle ploy.
    Israel has been there for millenia, has been with God, disobeyed God, suffered and come back to God.
    He will not abandon Israel.

  • Marcel 06/26/2009 at 6:54

    Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; 4 and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” 5 To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. 7 Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city. 8 So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?” 9 Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’ 10 And as for Me also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head.” 11 Just then, the man clothed with linen, who had the inkhorn at his side, reported back and said, “I have done as You commanded me.”
    Ezekiel 9
    God tests His people and those who are happy with their Obama nation and with perverse Israel are marked for death.
    That is why the missiles are aimed at their heads.
    God never changes,it’s only the deceived who think He does.
    With all the bad decsions Netanyahu has made against Israel and in favor of his new Plantation Master Obama I wondered why you would
    lead us on an adventure to visit the useless (for Israel) JINO’S of America. A diversion away from the scene of the many crimes of Israel’s latest groveling and retreating ghetto beggar who masquerades as a leader.
    How can you be so obvious ,or is it the readers are so gullible and easily led away from the real story ?
    It’s a hard job being a shill for the spineless,faithless Likud phony when he does so much damage in a few days and nothing in return for his capitulation and surrender.
    It’s the first round and the bum has out-retreated Olmert and Barak combined and you cover it up by your silence.
    I’m sure they will reward you for your party loyalty.
    He surrenders without a fight and you fail to rise up to the occasion to put heat on this latest quisling betrayer of Israel.
    I’m sure if you put the well deserved heat on the rat Netanyahu you might lose friends in high places, your status in the party and a future with the phonies, and so we have Glick lite,Glick zero on the bum you are committed to sell us a leader.
    HACK – a professional who renounces or surrenders individual independence, integrity, belief, etc., in return for money or other reward in the performance of a task normally thought of as involving a strong personal commitment:. a political hack.
    Israel is in big trouble thanks to the devious politicians who sell out at the drop of a hat and their loyal hacks who cover for them.
    How sad that you have joined the ranks by your silence.
    Demilitarized Palestinian State?
    by Prof. MK Arieh Eldad
    IDF to radically cut W. Bank presence
    Netanyahu folds under US pressure for pulling out of West Bank towns before peace talks
    IDF to limit West Bank raids

  • Ron Grandinetti 06/26/2009 at 8:59

    Caroline I believe this was discussed before and there is a concern many American Jews are afraid to be seen or recognized as too Jewish for reasons unknown.
    Standing up in support of Israel is not being un-American and if by chance you are Jewish you should be proud of a Jewish Nation in the Holy Land provided by G-d, a Jewish Nation in the Middle East, a democracy, no human rights violations and a trusted friend of the U.S. who is helping to maintain stability in this region surrounded by radical Arab terrorist groups.
    What I find troublesome is why the various Jewish organizations and there are many can’t seem to work together as one voice to support Israel.
    With respects to:
    Posted by Kay l June 26, 2009
    Obama was not elected because he was the best candidate to lead the U.S…
    Bottom line and factual, he was nothing more than a community organizer, having a dismal record of attendance and voting in both the State Senate and U.S. Senate.
    He was selected by George Soros and company along with the efforts of the liberal left media (NBC, MSNBC, the New York Slime to mention a few) who felt they could not control Hillary Clinton.
    They gave him a script to stick by, a middle of the road speeches and sold him to all the Kool-Aid drinkers.
    To date Hussein Obama the Muslim has proven he is clueless and is attempting to change America as we know it into European socialism.
    He continues to show signs of anti-Semitism and continues to cater to Muslims and the Arab Nations with human right violations, Arab countries who cannot be trusted and recognizes Hamas as a political arm of Palestinians rather than the terrorist organization that it is.
    So Kay, if you still don’t get the picture at least stops drinking the Kool-Aid.

  • Raphael 06/26/2009 at 12:48

    Caroline — and much of the media both in Israel and the US — is missing a very key point in all this: the strong, overwhelmingly negative Israeli reaction to Obama has MUCH LESS to do with his demand to stop settlement building and MUCH MORE to do with Israelis having no tolerance for anyone telling them what to do — espcially American presidents. I’ve tested this with many left-wing Israeli friends who, when pushed, admit that they agree with Obama’s position but worry either a) about Israel being a pawn of US foreign policy, b) about Israel losing control, or c) about doing something just because America said so. This reminds me a bit of my kids when they were younger — “don’t tell me what to do” (even if I know it’s in my best interest). American Jews have not given up support for Israel, no way! But many are running out of patience after 40 years of Israeli leaders who have come up with every imaginable excuse not to come to an agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab world, once and for all. The “excuses de jour”: we must allow ‘natural growth’ of settlements, and the Palestinians must recognize that Israel is a Jewish state. (Is that what Israel really needs the other side to acknowledge, or is it simply that Israel has a right to exist within secure borders as an internationally recognized member of the world community? It seems to me that it is Israel’s business alone to define its character, but what do I know…)

  • Ron Grandinetti 06/26/2009 at 14:07

    Posted by Raphael | June 26, 2009 12:48 PM
    American Jews have not given up support for Israel, no way! But many are running out of patience after 40 years of Israeli leaders who have come up with every imaginable excuse not to come to an agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab world, once and for all.
    To the contrary and I am sure Caroline can set you straight better than I.
    First of all American Jews are not in the line of fire and just don’t get it. Living in the U.S. and enjoying life is quite different from running for a bomb shelter or escaping a suicide bomber.
    Second, the Palestinians will not recognize Israel a Jewish Nation simply because they and their leaders don’t want peace.
    Israel, the Holy Land as provided by G-d extends from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean, including the Golan Heights, Gaza, Judea, Samaria and the Sinai and Jerusalem is the Israeli capitol.
    When territory is given up Hamas takes over for a better position to send rockets into Israel to kill Jews.
    So why should an American president or any other leader tell Israel what they should do with respects to the land that is theirs.
    American Jews have not given up support for Israel, no way. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    When you find it let us all know, please.

  • Tomer Elias 06/26/2009 at 16:19

    Obama might not be the best leader for the Americans but it doesn’t mean the American Jews who voted for him can’t work to change the way he is treating Israel.
    The sentence “Israel most stop the building of settlements” has been said to many times and its starting to make us sick to keep hearing it over and over again by different world leaders every day.

  • Josh_in_SantaMonica 06/26/2009 at 16:20

    Don’t forget, American Jews are, on the whole, as ignorant as the rest of Americans. They’ve been influenced by far left educators, professors and journalists for a very long time now. They value being liberals, Democrats and politically correct do-gooders more than being Jews by far. In fact, they equate Judaism with these characteristics more than with any actual history of the Jews. Down deep they also see themselves as fully assimilated and past any problems associated with being perceived as ‘different’ than gentile Americans.
    Israel and its battles are inconvenient to this type of American Jew in lots of ways. They threaten to put a wedge between themselves and their endearingly liberal and black Obama. They also bring back deep memories of ‘kikey’ Jews that are loud, aggressive and obviously swimming against the stream of easy-going, get-along Americans. Refer to the movie “Gentleman’s Agreement” for some good reminders of how it used to be.
    What American Jews don’t want to think about is that Israel functions as their front line. Imagine what would happen here if Israel were obliterated by Iran. Obama would shake a finger at Iran, call them an aberration within the peaceful Muslim world and then proceed to fully align with them while increasing the volume of statements calling the US a Muslim country. There would be a period of tasteful mourning by the administration and then would come the tut-tutting about how Israel brought this on themselves and if they’d only been more ‘reasonable’, it never would have happened. It would be obvious what happens to ‘unreasonable Jews.’
    Jews here would be rudely surprised by their new position. Any talk about homicidal Muslim culture, or that the Israelis didn’t somehow deserve to be incinerated would be ‘kikey.’ All Jews here would be suspected of being disloyal Americans, plotting revenge for the destruction of Israel, etc. Of course the next step for the Jew-haters would be to come out from behind their anti-Israel foreign policy rhetoric to stand in their full glory, and start the pograms here.
    That’s it for today. I love you Caroline! Keep up the fight, you’re all we’ve got!

  • Eleazer 06/30/2009 at 9:11

    Dear Caroline,
    Not all American Jew’s are blind – I was recently sent and read a very interesting article by Rabbi Dr. Morton H. Pomerantz ‘Obama Breeds Climate of Hate Against Jews’. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on what Rabbi Pomerantz says?
    Finally not all of us are blind to Obama, I am a Canadian Jew and I look across the boarder very concerned. Though we have wanted to make Aliyah for a while we have now started the process due to Obama (one of many reasons) coming to office.
    My ancestors came from Germany and in Obama I see another Hitler – you many think this is extreme but it was said of Hitler ‘he will pass’. He did not and six million of our people died, some of them my ancestors.
    I do not want to become an Obama statistic in the coming years.
    Thanks for your great article.
    Shalom Eleazer Ben Ami
    P.S. Correct me if I am wroung. But to date Obama has not yet visited Israel? but has visited two Arab States? That to me is very Significant?


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