US Jews feel­ing more pos­i­tive to­ward Is­rael de­spite re­li­gious plu­ral­ism rift

65% are un­aware of con­tro­ver­sies • Sur­vey finds 81% feel the same or bet­ter to­ward Is­rael over last sev­eral years

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By JEREMY SHARON

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, Amer­i­can Jews’ feel­ings to­ward Is­rael have grown more pos­i­tive in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to find­ings of a new poll con­ducted by the J Street lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion last week.

The poll, taken on the day of the US midterm elec­tions last Tues­day, ap­par­ently con­tra­dicts the fre­quent dire warn­ings heard from el­e­ments in the North Amer­i­can Jewish lead­er­ship that Di­as­pora Jews are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly alien­ated from Is­rael be­cause of Is­raeli poli­cies to­ward the Pales­tini­ans and on mat­ters of re­li­gious plu­ral­ism.

The sur­vey, con­ducted by the GBA Strate­gies re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion for J Street on a sam­ple of 903 Jewish vot­ers with a mar­gin of er­ror of 3.3% found that 65% of re­spon­dents felt ei­ther very or some­what emo­tion­ally at­tached to Is­rael, com­pared to 35% who felt not very at­tached or not at all at­tached to the Jewish state.

Asked if, com­pared to five to 10 years ago, they felt more pos­i­tive, more neg­a­tive or the same to­ward Is­rael, 55% said they felt about the same, 26% said more pos­i­tively and only 19% felt more neg­a­tively.

The sur­vey did note, how­ever, that Jewish mil­len­ni­als are more evenly split on their at­ti­tudes to­ward Is­rael than Jews 35 years old and up­wards, but full anal­y­sis of those results has not yet been pub­lished.

Ques­tioned specif­i­cally on how Is­rael’s pol­icy to­ward the Pales­tini­ans has af­fected their at­ti­tudes, a po­tent is­sue that is of­ten be­lieved to have alien­ated US Jews from Is­rael, the re­sponses were sim­i­lar.

Some 54% of those polled said Is­rael’s poli­cies to­ward the Pales­tini­ans had made no dif­fer­ence to their feel­ings to­wards Is­rael and 29% said more neg­a­tive, but 17% said Is­rael’s poli­cies had made them feel more pos­i­tive.

And Jewish Amer­i­cans even seem un­con­cerned about the com­bustible is­sue of set­tle­ment con­struc­tion and ex­pan­sion.

Asked about how “the ex­pan­sion of Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank” made them feel about Is­rael, 48% said that it had no im­pact, and 19% said pos­i­tive, com­pared to 32% who said it made them feel neg­a­tive, mean­ing more than two-thirds of Jewish Amer­i­cans are un­con­cerned with set­tle­ment con­struc­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a large ma­jor­ity of US Jews seem rather un­aware of the con­tro­ver­sies that have swirled be­tween Is­rael and the North Amer­i­can Di­as­pora lead­er­ship re­gard­ing mat­ters of re­li­gious plu­ral­ism.

Se­vere arguments over prayer rights at the Western Wall, recog­ni­tion by Is­rael of Jewish con­ver­sion by dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions and other sim­i­lar is­sues have roiled the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Is­rael’s govern­ment and the se­nior lead­er­ship of the pro­gres­sive Jewish streams and cen­tral Di­as­pora or­ga­ni­za­tions in re­cent years.

But when asked, “how much have you heard about Is­raeli pol­icy to­wards the non-Or­tho­dox” – specif­i­cally about Western Wall prayer rights, con­ver­sion and re­li­gious cer­e­monies – 65% said they had

heard lit­tle or noth­ing, and only 35% said they had heard a good amount or a good deal.

Of those who said they had heard a good amount or a good deal, half said it had made them feel more neg­a­tive to­ward Is­rael, while the other half said it made them feel more pos­i­tive or had not changed their opin­ion.

Feel­ings to­ward Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu have wors­ened sig­nif­i­cantly, how­ever, with his rel­a­tive fa­vor­a­bil­ity with US Jews go­ing from +30 in 2014 to +12 in 2016; it has now dropped to a nine-year low of +3 by scor­ing a 35% fa­vor­able ver­sus 32% un­fa­vor­able rat­ing of those polled in

the cur­rent sur­vey. •

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