How popular is Trump in Israel

In the summer of last year, Donald Trump made a very hypothetical and very loud mouthed election prognosis: If he ran in Israel, the US President declared, he would get 98 percent of the vote. That is of course typically exaggerated, but in fact Trump is hardly anywhere as popular in the world as in the Jewish state. He would be sure of a large majority there.

The only problem is that the Israelis are not allowed to vote for Trump - and that the American Jews are at least as firmly behind his rival Joe Biden of the Democrats as the Israelis are behind the incumbent president. The relevant surveys in Israel and the USA show almost mirror-inverted values. And that could become a problem between Israel and the Jewish diaspora in the USA well beyond the current US election.

The majority of the more than six million Jews living in the United States have traditionally leaned toward the Democrats. This is also confirmed by a recent poll for the presidential election on November 3, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee: 75 percent of American Jews want to vote for Biden, only 22 percent for Trump. This is roughly in line with the value that 2016 election inquiries indicated for Hillary Clinton.

In Israel, on the other hand, where Clinton was more popular than Trump according to a 2016 survey by Army Radio, only 21 percent of respondents now want Biden to win. 50 percent favor Trump. If you remove all those who did not provide any information from this survey by the Mitvim Institute, the result is a ratio of 70 to 30 for Trump.

No wonder Trump is seen as a benefactor by many Israelis

Trump's current popularity in Israel is easy to explain: after all, he is the president who moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights conquered in 1967 and also presented a so-called peace plan, which in the conflict with the Palestinians follows Israel's interests very unilaterally. Finally, he brokered normalization agreements between Israel and three Arab states - the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan. And on top of that, not least at the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he terminated the nuclear deal with Iran.

Little wonder then that Trump appears to many Israelis as a benefactor and the best US president in living memory. Biden, on the other hand, is expected to continue the policies of Barack Obama, whom he had stood by as Vice President - and thus little good. It does not take into account that Biden had proven himself to be a friend of Israel throughout his life as a politician. There is a quotation from 2012 in which he confesses that he "loves" Netanyahu, even if he does not agree with "any damn thing" he says. When Netanyahu was recently in Washington for the major signing show of the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, there was no attempt at contact with Biden.

All that Trump did for Israel, for his own evangelical constituencies and as a service of friendship for his ally Netanyahu, obviously has no effect on the voting behavior of American Jews. Trump himself, as expected, takes this personally. Last year he called Jewish voters who vote for the Democrats "disloyal". The Jewish US voters simply have different priorities: In their list for election, Israeli-American relations rank behind domestic issues such as coping with the corona pandemic, economic or health policy.

Israel's agile Prime Minister Netanyahu

But the bottom line is that the contrasting figures from the USA and Israel actually show that Israel and the strongest diaspora group have drifted further apart in recent years. Israel has shifted to the right under Netanyahu, while the vast majority of American Jews remain steadfastly on a liberal course. Given the gap that is becoming visible, doubts about the support of the American diaspora are growing in Israel. And on the other hand, the American Jews are alienating themselves from an Israel under Netanyahu, which always stands firmly by Trump's side.

Netanyahu would certainly like to see Trump in the White House for the next four years. But the proof that he is also a realist and agile enough to adjust to Biden's lead in the polls, he delivered just last Friday. Then Trump announced the normalization of relations with Sudan, and with a nasty swipe at Biden he suddenly asked Netanyahu: "Do you think that Sleepy Joe could have got such a deal, Bibi?" Without going directly into the question, the Israeli prime minister replied, "Mr. President, I can assure you that in Israel, help on the road to peace is welcome from everyone in the United States."