He has questioned Israel’s commitment to peace and has touted neutrality in Middle Eastern dealmaking, but a majority of Israeli Jews believe Donald Trump would be a friend to Israel if elected to the US presidency, according to the findings of a recent poll from the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University.
From early in his campaign, Trump has questioned Israel’s commitment to peace with the Palestinians and put the onus on it to move forward. “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal—whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press published in December.
In remarks that same day at the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump stuck with the characterization.
But Trump has also expressed support for Israel—and, characteristically, support for his support of Israel. “There’s nobody on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am,” he said at a debate last week in Miami. He also said that he “would at least have the other side think I’m somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done.”
But compared to his rivals, his support for Israel looks lukewarm. At the Miami debate, Ted Cruz differentiated himself from Trump, saying, “As president, I will not be neutral.”
Marco Rubio went even further. “The policy Donald has outlined, I don’t know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy,” he said at the debate. “Maybe that’s not your intent but here’s why it is an anti-Israeli policy: There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment.”
Jewish Israelis characterize Trump differently, though, with 61% saying they believe Trump’s stances are “very or moderately friendly” to Israel, while only 14% characterize them as “not at all or not so friendly.”
The opinion sections of Israeli newspapers haven’t been as embracing of the candidate, though. Left-leaning Ha’aretz ran a headline last month saying Trump “would be a disaster for US Jews, Israel and the Middle East.” On the right, an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post last week said Trump had a “profound misunderstanding of the Middle East.”