Is Israel isolated?

Breaking news (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Breaking news
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
 Our friends are worried. Young American Jews are in danger of disappearing via intermarriages at rates of 50 percent or more. Many are ill informed and disinterested in Israel. Key figures in AIPAC have come out in support of a Palestinian State, against sentiments in the Israeli government. Many Democrats, including Jews and others, are tilting in support of Palestinians rather than Israel. President Donald Trump is the subject of despair and ridicule among Jewish Democrats, even while the Israeli Prime Minister describes him as the best President ever. American media are joining Israeli media is seeing mounting evidence of Prime Minister Netanyahu's corruption, and coupling it with criticism of Israel's occupation of what should be Palestinian land and the persecution of Palestinian people.
 
Better news is that Americans generally, as well as Jews, continue to show more support for Israel than Palestinians.
 
Various surveys show the greatest support for Israel in the US among Orthodox Jews, older Jews, and Evangelical Christians. Palestinian support comes from liberal Protestants, liberal Democrats, and African Americans. Young Jews, Reform and politically liberal Jews may be overall supportive of Israel, but its among them where indifference or even opposition to Israeli policy and leadership are likely to appear.
 
Those who worry about American Jews should consider the phenomena of assimilation. Most are 4-6 generations away from stronger Jewish cultures in Europe. Along with other highly educated Americans, many have drifted away from religion.  
 
Are American Jews' sentiments about a homeland any different from other highly assimilated and intermarried European ethics, whose descendants have been in the US for about as long?

A significant finding is that politically liberal Americans are inclined to negative feelings about Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, and are waffling on Israel. That's likely to include a lot of Jews, especially those younger than middle age.
 
The linked attitudes about Trump and Netanyahu are understandable, given the mutual expressions of admiration heard from both, and being on the outs with what is politically correct among western democracies.
It's easy to argue that both are personally corrupt, but there are sharp differences with respect to political skill.
Poll numbers indicate that Bibi's core supporters are firmer than Trump's, and more likely to do well in the next election. Bibi's record of political longevity and maneuvering far surpasses Donald's.
On Bibi's record is moderation in action along with extremism in rhetoric. The combination has kept his right of center constituency in line, while accomplishing decent records of economic stability and growth, along with international accommodations if not any formal celebration of peace.
Both the US and Israel have substantial international worries, but Bibi hasn't brought Israel as close as crisis as have Donald's expressions about North Korea or international trade.
American leftists who quarrel with, or ridicule Israelis' lack of success in reaching agreement with the Palestinians has become part of what separates the communities of American and Israeli Jews. 
A typically charge is that Netanyahu, Likud, or the collection of Israeli rightists has failed to do what is necessary to reach agreement with Palestinians, with the result of Palestinian misery, frustration, and occasional waves of violence.
What this view lacks is an informed understanding of the Palestinians' contributions to the impasse, in chronic violence, and in rejecting several opportunities for compromise offered over the course of some 80 years.
Within Israel, tensions between the ultra-Orthodox and other Jews--affected by considerable gaps in birth rates--are arguably more threatening than anything posed by Middle Eastern Arabs. 
Israelis have learned how to deal with Palestinians and other Arabs. Polls show that Israeli Arabs recognize the quality of life they enjoy, compared to Arabs outside of Israel. The Arabs of East Jerusalem, while avoiding Israeli citizenship, say that they'd rather live in Israel than Palestine.
Israel's Arab citizens fare better on a number of key social indicators than minorities in other democracies, and even better on some of the indicators than the White majority within the United States.  
More uncertain is Israelis' capacity to reign in the appetites and guide the education of the ultra-Orthodox. And tensions with the ultra-Orthodox impact on problems with overseas Jews, especially with respect to ultra-Orthodox postures toward non-Orthodox rituals, and the weight of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli politics.
American Jews who are overtly secular lack what surrounds non-religious Israeli Jews. The long traditions of Jewish humanism, or of non-religious Jews strongly identified with Jewish traditions do not play well in America where a synagogue affiliation may be essential for close interaction with other Jews. 
Among the better news is that Israel has developed significant but subtle links with Saudi Arabia and Gulf Emirates, as well as overt military cooperation with Egypt.
 
A common opposition to Iranian aggression has expanded the network of Israeli connections throughout the Middle East.

Students of realpolitik can ponder if stronger ties in the Middle East are more or less important than shaky relations with American Jews.
Is there anything to the worry that American Jews destined to disappear, via intermarriage? 

Not only is it too early for a conclusion,  but the experience of Soviet Jews, who experienced several generations of overt regime enmity as well as high rates of intermarriage, suggests an inner cohesion that can keep things going.
Among the hopes of some leftists is that Israel can be forced to go the route of South Africa, turned by sanctions from its policy of Apartheid toward political control by what had been its persecuted Black majority.
One leftist slogan is that Israel's rejection of a two-state solution will produce one state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, which eventually will have an Arab majority.
 
Whether this is the fear, expectation, or wish of Israel's critics, its prospects are unlikely.
 
Israel shows no sign of absorbing territory with a largely Arab population. 
 
While Israel's relations with Palestinians are problematic, walls and other separations derive at least as much from a substantial record of Palestinian violence as from any concern to rule another people.  
 
We must be wary of any certainty in predicting what is inevitable or even likely. Among the currents whose futures are unknown are relations between Israeli and overseas Jews, the international status of the Palestinians and their claims of violated rights, as well as several wars among Muslms..
 
Optimists can cite the Jews' several millennia of surviving both external and internal threats, as well as the failure of Palestinians to achieve enough unity to assure their continued viability as the darling of Arabs or others. 
 
Realists should remind Israelis that it's too early to celebrate.
 
Comments welcome

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Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
irashark@gmail.com