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GOP attacks Biden as 'weak' on Israel but polls show majority of Jews support his efforts

Biden’s general approval marks are also triple Trump’s ratings among Jewish Americans during his time in office.

By Josh Axelrod - July 13, 2021
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Joe Biden

American Jews largely support the new president and his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite Republican broadsides on the issue, according to the first major poll of Jews during President Joe Biden’s term.

The survey, conducted by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute and released July 13, polled 800 Jews, 80% of whom approved of Biden’s job performance so far. Three-quarters of respondents said they specifically liked how Biden was handling U.S. relations with Israel.

“The results demonstrate that Jewish Americans trust Biden more than Trump by at least a three-to-one margin on key issues including fighting antisemitism, handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue,” the group wrote in a press release.

In May, tensions in the region flared up as Israel attempted to evict several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, attacking Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, in the process. In the 11 days of rocket and air attacks that followed, at least 230 Palestinians, including 65 children, and 12 Israelis, two of whom were children, were killed.

Biden’s approach during the conflict was one of extreme caution, asserting Israel’s right to defend itself while simultaneously encouraging then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wind down the violence and calling for a ceasefire. 

Despite that approach, Republicans largely heaped criticism on Biden throughout the conflict.

“A weak foreign policy emboldens terrorists and makes the world less safe. America’s leaders must be clear: we stand unequivocally with our ally and friend, Israel,” Mike Pompeo, secretary of state under former President Donald Trump, tweeted on May 14.

“These attacks prove that Biden’s weak leadership is reversing the historic progress the Trump administration made towards peace in the region and has signaled to known terrorist organizations, like Hamas, that they can get away with attacking our nation’s strongest ally in the Middle East,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a statement on May 12.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted on May 12, “Hamas has watched Biden downgrade our relationship with Israel and then restore funding to the PA and the UN’s most corrupt agency without reform. Now, they are testing him. While terrorist rockets rain down on Israeli civilians, Biden is nowhere to be found.”

Yet, Tuesday’s poll indicates those Republican attacks failed to stick with Jewish voters, with 62% of Jews supporting Biden’s handling of the recent conflict.

Haley’s reference to Biden restoring $150 million in funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the relief group that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees which Trump choked off support for in 2018, is also at odds with Tuesday’s findings. Sixty-two percent of Jews support that decision, according to the poll.

Among Jewish Americans, support for Biden in general contrasts starkly with Trump’s approval ratings during his four years in office. The former president, who took an aggressive tack on Israel, pulling out of the Iran Deal and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, earned approval from little more than a quarter of American Jews throughout his presidency. 

By comparison, former President Barack Obama’s approval among Jewish Americans dropped from 77% at the start of his first term to 54% by the time he left office. And former President George W. Bush’s approval sank from 56% to 39% in the early 2000s.

Trump, for his part, has long attempted to court Jewish voters despite simultaneously pushing antisemitic stereotypes and rhetoric critical of those he perceived as somehow “disloyal.” He lamented in June that Jews had turned out in droves for Biden during the 2020 election.

“You know what really surprised me?” Trump told an Orthodox Jewish magazine. “I did the Heights, I did Jerusalem, and I did Iran — the Iran Deal was a disaster, right? And I also did many other things. Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough. Does that make sense to you? I’m not talking about Orthodox Jews. I believe we got 25% of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense. It just seems strange to me.”

Trump perhaps overestimated the degree to which Jewish voters prioritize Israel as a voting issue: Only 4% of respondents in Tuesday’s poll ranked Israel in their top two issues they want Biden and Congress to concentrate on, with climate change, voting rights and the economy scoring the highest.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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