Although it is hard to shock and surprise Israelis these days, it is safe to say the statements from both sides of the American political spectrum regarding the war Hamas initiated on 10/7 did just that.
Last week, President Biden delivered a strong, heartfelt speech that gave many Israelis a ray of hope in very dark days. Biden’s speech, originally timed for 8:00 in the evening, the primetime hour of Israel newscasts, was forceful and compassionate. For a decade and a half, the Netanyahu government accused Democratic presidents – Obama and later Biden – as being anti-Israel; some have depicted Obama as an antisemite (See UN Resolution 2334, ed.) and Biden as senescent.
However, Biden’s strongly pro-Israeli speech – and the concrete steps accompanying it, including dispatching the USS Gerald R. Ford to the eastern Mediterranean and committing to re-supply the IDF – sparked an immediate positive reevaluation of the American president by many Israelis.
On the other side of the aisle, I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that Trump’s remarks at his rally in Florida on Thursday came as a real shock to many Israelis. Israel was one of the only countries in the world where Trump enjoyed popularity. In a Jan 2022 Pew Research Center survey, for instance, of the 32 nations surveyed 71% of Israelis expressed confidence in Trump, second only to the Philippines, and the only Western nation where confidence in Trump was above water. Trump was so highly regarded by the Israeli government that it named a community in the Golan “Trump Heights.”
Trump’s speech on Thursday came as a great shock to large swaths of Israeli society. Not only did Trump kick Israel when it was down, the thing that seemed to matter most to him was a credit war with Netanyahu over the 2020 killing of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps.
A lot has been said in recent years about a growing gap between Israelis and liberal American Jews, and perhaps no indication of this gap loomed larger than the diverging assessment of American politics, particularly Trump. As mentioned, most Israelis loved Trump. Most American liberal Jews, on the other hand, remained loyal Democrats – roughly 75% voted for Clinton in 2016 and for Biden in 2020. Their distrust of Trump – especially after his response to events like the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which many of them saw as a flirtation with antisemitism – was especially high.
It is possible that the reevaluation by many Israelis after the starkly contrasting statements of Biden and Trump might bridge some of the gap between Israeli and liberal American Jews. And any avenue in which this connection grows stronger is a source for hope.
((Ed. note: Measured by actions, not his inappropriate remarks: Trump, while president, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, stopped funding the PA and UNRWA among other things.)
Or Rappel-Kroyzeris a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) and Chief Scientist at the Center for Interdisciplinary Data Research at the Hebrew University