Why are Israeli, US Jews divided between Trump, Biden? – analysis

Israelis are from Venus, US Jews are from Mars when it comes to the Trump-Biden race.

Former vice president Joe Biden (Left) and US President Donald Trump (Right) (photo credit: WHITE HOUSE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Former vice president Joe Biden (Left) and US President Donald Trump (Right)
If Israelis could vote in next month’s US elections, some 63% of them – according to an i24 News poll this week asking Israelis which candidate they preferred – would apparently vote for US President Donald Trump, compared to only 19% for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
By contrast, according to a Pew poll also released this week, 70% of American Jews plan to vote for Biden, and only 27% for Trump.
Some may look at this mirror image – something identical in form but with the structure reversed – and say it illustrates how far American and Israeli Jews have drifted apart. Some may look at those figures as proof of their premise that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump have driven a massive wedge between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.
But those people would be wrong, because this phenomenon of American Jews preferring one US presidential candidate, and Israelis another, is not unique to the Trump era and predates, even, Netanyahu. This is a recurring phenomenon that – with the exception of the 2016 race – has occurred during every other US election since 2004.
While in the last election an Army radio poll showed that Israelis preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump – though at far lower levels than their co-religionists in the US (41%-31%, as opposed to the 71%-24% margin among American Jews who voted) – that was the exception over the last 16 years.
In 2012, – according to an Israel Radio poll – 45% of Israelis preferred Mitt Romney to Barack Obama (American Jews voted 69% for Obama, and 30% for Romney).
In 2008, Israel was one of only three countries in the world that, according to polls, would have voted for John McCain rather than Obama. The other countries were Georgia and the Philippines. According to a Teleseker poll at the time, some 46% of Israelis favored McCain, while 34% preferred Obama. In the actual elections, US Jews voted overwhelmingly for Obama: 78%-22%.
And the divergence also predates Obama. In the 2004 election, another  Teleseker poll showed that 49% of Israelis said they preferred George W. Bush, and only 18% wanted John Kerry. And how did American Jews vote? 76%-24% in favor of Kerry.
So what does it all mean? Does it mean – as some might want to interpret – that the bonds between the two communities are breaking, and that Israeli and American Jews are going their separate ways?
 No. It simply means that the Israeli and American Jews live in completely different realities and, as a result, have vastly different priorities. Though one people, the interests of Israel and American Jewry are not the same: the two communities have vastly different central concerns.
When Israeli Jews look at who they would like to be US president they are looking at it throughout the prism of who is better for Israel: who will place the least pressure on it to take steps it views as inimical to its security; who will be least critical of its policies; who will be more likely to give it support on the world stage; who will be best for its security.
When American Jews go to the polls, the question of who is better for Israel is for the vast majority not their number one consideration. In fact, according to a March survey by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute, it is at the very bottom of a list of nine priorities – lower on the list than health care (at the top), Medicare/social security, the economy, antisemitism, gun control, abortion rights, and climate change.
The bottom line is simple: when Israelis looks at Trump, they are not looking at the character of the man or his domestic policies, they are not swayed by his tax returns or his position on wearing COVID-19 masks or the Proud Boys, but whether he is good – and will continue to be good – for Israel. And what the polls show is that on that question the answer is an overwhelming “yes.”
And when American Jews go to the ballot booth they are making their choices based on a myriad of considerations that have nothing to do with Israel. That they don’t prioritize Israel as their top issue when they vote does not, however, mean they don’t support Israel, as some would argue, just that it is not the main criteria they use to judge the US president.
These vastly different priorities do not mean that today there is an unscalable wall dividing Israeli and American Jews, or that their diametrically opposed presidential preferences bespeaks of vastly different values. It just provides more proof of that old aphorism, known as Miles’ Law after the Truman-era bureaucrat Rufus E. Miles who coined it: “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”
Israeli and American Jews are forming judgments regarding the US presidential race from their own particular perspective and vantage points. And while that may seem obvious, it is something each side needs to bear in mind before slamming the other for the “short-sightedness” of their particular choice.