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  • USIEA Team

New Sympathy for Israel

On March 16, Gallup published the results of a new poll that had a striking outcome. The poll was called “Net Sympathy for Israel in the Middle East Situation, by Party ID.” The term “net sympathy” is defined as the percentage of people more sympathetic toward Israel minus the percentage of people more sympathetic toward the Palestinians. That is to say, if 60% of a certain group is more sympathetic towards Israel and 40% is more sympathetic to the Palestinians, then the “net sympathy” equals 20%. The results are presented below:

What is so striking is this: After a decade in which Democrats have shown increasing affinity toward the Palestinians, their sympathies in the Middle East now lie more with the Palestinians than with the Israelis, 49% versus 38%. Independents are also sympathizing more with Palestinians than ever before, while Republican views are nearly unchanged since the last time the poll was conducted (78% of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israelis). Another notable trend from the poll: There are substantial generational differences, with Millennials more evenly split on the sympathy question while older Americans tend to be more sympathetic towards Israelis.

What is the reason for this shift? Internet pundits suggest that it might have to do with increased violence in the West Bank or the judicial reform currently being pushed by Israel’s new right-wing government. Lydia Saad, who headed the poll at Gallup, had this to say: “Americans’ views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have become more polarized as Democrats increasingly commiserate with the Palestinians, while Republicans maintain their solid alignment with the Israelis. The escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities over the past year, resulting in a high number of Palestinians killed, could partly explain the most recent shift in Democrats’ perspective. But Democrats’ waning religiosity may be a factor in the longer-term trend. Sympathy for Israel has historically been highly correlated with religion, with those attending religious services weekly being much more sympathetic to the Israelis than those who seldom or never attend.”

I suggest that the results of the poll are entirely predictable but not for the reasons suggested by Saad. In 2019, Professor Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Institute in Jerusalem, published a book called “We Stand Divided - The Rift Between American Jews and Israel.” Gordis discusses the then waning support of Israel among American Jews (Specifically, among non-Orthodox Jews. Support of Israel among Orthodox Jewry was and remains sky-high). Gordis’s answer to the American-Jewish critique of Israel is that the Americans do not understand the nature of the state.

While, over the years, presidential administrations have blown hot and cold in their relationship with Israel, Israel has always garnered wide bipartisan support in Congress. But when, for a large body of Americans, support for Israel is no longer contingent upon her actions, when there is no way to redress the asserted wrong other than to willingly cease to exist, it is a sure sign that hard times lie ahead.

Wishing you a quiet week,

Ari Sacher

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