The Parting: why this election is different for Israel

It is not news that American Jews continue to overwhelmingly choose the Democratic candidates. This election is different in how it is likely to affect the State of Israel.

Then-US vice president Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wave upon Biden’s arrival in Ramallah in 2016. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Then-US vice president Joe Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wave upon Biden’s arrival in Ramallah in 2016.
It is only natural; an inevitable socio-historical process is finally coming into focus. Many have seen it approaching for years. Others, when told of it, have denied it. Some still do. But what greater evidence do we need of the growing divide between the Jews of America and Israel than the 2020 presidential election?
According to available reports, it appears that some 70% of American Jewish voters chose Joseph Biden over Donald Trump. This proportion is consonant with the 2016 presidential election when 71% voted for Hillary Clinton and only 24% for Donald Trump. American Jews also supported Barack Obama in similar figures in 2008 and 2012.
It is not news that American Jews continue to overwhelmingly choose the Democratic candidate for president as well as Democratic candidates for the US Senate and the House of Representatives. What makes this election’s show of disproportionate Jewish support for the Democratic Party different than in previous elections is how its outcome is likely to affect the State of Israel in terms of its security, its continuous striving for peace with its neighbors and its image in the world. In this election the ante for Israel has been upped, but largely to the indifference of America’s Jews.
During the election campaign, Joe Biden’s team already announced its intention of rebuilding relations with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. This includes allowing a de facto Palestinian embassy, the PLO Mission, to reopen in Washington, DC and maintaining a separate US consulate to serve the Palestinian population in the eastern part of Jerusalem.  At present, the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU) operates quietly out of the Agron Road branch of the US Embassy in the western section of Jerusalem. It also means the resumption of millions of dollars of donations to the Palestinian Authority through USAID as well as renewing significant American financial support for the notorious United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNWRA), the latter a recognized training ground for terrorists. This resumption of ties and aid will empower the same useless kleptocracy that has for decades stood in the way of peace and prevented the normalization of Palestinian lives and at whose head sits the 85-year-old implacable Mahmoud Abbas.
Under Biden, the onus for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will now fall back on Israel. Even one brick added to an existing Jewish home in Judea or Samaria or even parts of Jerusalem will bring condemnation upon the Jewish state as being “unhelpful” and an “obstacle to peace.”
The Obama redux policy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to embolden terrorist factions within the Palestinian Authority and in the Gaza Strip. This will take its toll in human lives and injury.
The Biden administration, under pressure from the Left “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party, could even recognize a “State of Palestine” without any concessions made by Palestinian leaders.
As retrogressive as is the above, what constitutes a greater, even an existential, threat to the State of Israel and to the Middle-East is the Biden team’s announcement of its intention to have America rejoin, in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the “bad” nuclear deal with Iran.
For those who may have forgotten, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany and the European Union. The JCPOA was designed only to postpone and make more difficult, but not stop the Shi’ite regime’s progress towards acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Yet even before the Trump administration pulled out of the agreement and instituted a strong and effective set of economic sanctions against Iran, the IAEA reported that Iran was in violation of its commitments. Iran’s leaders broadcast open and unabashed threats against the State of Israel and speak of her elimination. Israel relates to these threats in earnest.  
Ignore that Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to which he relocated the US Embassy; that American citizens born in Jerusalem now have “Jerusalem, Israel” printed on their birth certificates and passports; that the Trump administration recognizes the legitimacy of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, and ignore the key US role in brokering normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Just the current US administration’s approach to the two security matters, the Palestinians and Iran, was reason enough for some 70% of Israelis to favor Donald Trump over Joe Biden in an Israel Democracy Institute survey taken during the first week of November. These results are the precise mirror image of the Jewish voters in America for whom these issues played no role in their choice for president.
And the explanation is simple. As in real estate it comes down to “location, location, location.” America’s Jews don’t live in Israel. They live in America and unlike their grandparents and great-grandparents, first they are Americans. Their significant issues are American issues. They don’t know much about Israeli society and culture. They don’t speak Hebrew. The Judaism of most American Jews would be unrecognizable to many Israelis. Most American Jews have never visited Israel, have no plans to visit, and would prefer visiting other countries first. And their numbers are dwindling.   
Israelis must recognize that the current generation of America’s Jews, unlike previous generations, for the most part are not particularly interested in Israel, at least not in any practical way. The present rift is likely to widen with time for the simple reason that the process is a natural one. It is not reversible through educational programs, as decades and millions of wasted dollars have demonstrated. Even Birthright is not going to change the direction of this tide.  There should be no hard feelings, no enmity. Israelis should be thankful for the significant financial, political and moral support of previous generations of American Jews. But they must modify their expectations according to the current reality.  Thus, Israelis need to relate to the Jews living in America as most today prefer to see themselves… they are Americans.
The writer is the founding director of iTalkIsrael. He lives in Efrat.