32% of Israelis believe US Jews should stay out of peace process

Poll finds nearly a quarter of Israelis are against accepting input from American Jewry on religious issues.

June 18, 2013 10:13
3 minute read.
Pro-Israel supporter in New York City

Pro-Israel supporter in New York City. (photo credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)


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Most Israelis think the government should totally or mostly disregard US Jewry’s positions on the peace process and religious affairs, according to a poll released Monday.

Of the Israelis polled, 31.9 percent think Israeli leaders should not take into account the positions of American Jews on the peace process at all, and 33.6% said US Jewry’s views should be considered to a small extent. Only 21.6% called for those views to be taken into account to a great extent, and 9.4 to a very great extent.

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On religious issues, such as conversion or the government’s relations with the Conservative and Reform movements, 24% of Israelis were against taking US Jewry’s positions into account, and 30.6% said they should be considered to a small extent. Still, Israelis are more willing to accept input from American Jews on religious issues than on the peace process, with 25.1% saying it should be taken into account to a great extent and 15.2% responding to a very great extent.

The poll was conducted by Teleseker and commissioned by The Ruderman Family Foundation, which seeks to strengthen relationships between Israel and the US Jewish community, ahead of the launch of a Knesset caucus led by MK Nachman Shai (Labor).

According to the poll’s results, 66.3% of Israelis see the Jewish community in the US as having a very or somewhat positive influence on Israel’s national security.

In addition, 76% of Israelis responded that American Jewry’s support for Israel in the future will remain at the level it is today or even grow stronger. However, when asked whether American Jews feel a meaningful connection to Israel, 51% felt that half or less than half of US Jewry feel that connection.

Professor Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College analyzed the poll for The Ruderman Family Foundation, explaining that “based upon both these results and other evidence, we can say that Israeli Jews’ views on their society’s relationship with American Jews are diverse, but not polarized.

“The Israeli public displays a wide variety of opinions regarding the advisability of taking American Jews’ positions into account, the strength of connection of US Jews with Israel and the sustainability of that connection,” he added.

Cohen advised that policymakers concerned with the connection between Israel and American Jewry “have a free hand,” as they lack pressure from the Israeli public to call attention to a growing problem, while there is no strong majority blocking efforts to improve relations.

The new caucus aims to educate legislators about the evolving American Jewish community, how US Jews view Israel and how this affects overall support for Israel.

“Our intent is to reveal to MKs the depth of relations between the two countries,” Shai explained. “The US and Israel have shared values and interests that draw us together. We hope that by broadening their knowledge and familiarizing Knesset members with the US community, this will help MKs in their parliamentary roles.”

According to Ruderman Family Foundation president Jay Ruderman, it is essential for Israeli leaders to understand the American Jewish community, since the majority of worldwide Jewry is split between Israel and the US.

“Israel relies on the political, military and diplomatic support of the United States, and the American Jewish community is responsible in large part for this support, so it makes sense from a strategic viewpoint for Israeli leaders to understand this important community’s connection to Israel and the changes that may be occurring in that connection,” Ruderman stated.

The caucus’s official launch will take place Tuesday morning in the Knesset, with Dan Kurtzer and Moshe Arens, former ambassadors to Israel and the US respectively, speaking at the event.

One of the issues the caucus plans to discuss is whether Israel can sustain the $3 billion in aid it receives from the US each year, and whether that support is guaranteed to continue.

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