The election of Barack Obama for President of the United States saw a shift in the relationship between American and Israeli Jews. Obama appealed to the liberal Jewish demographic; reaching out to organizations like JStreet, and passing policies that fit his idealist/ utopian, vision of the Middle East—more specifically, Israel and the Palestinians. These policies were viewed as problematic by many in the Israeli community, as they seemed to go against Israel’s own governmental polices, like introducing stipulations to the 2 state solution that even Abbas himself did not require. The consensus became that Obama, along with the American liberal Jewish population wanted a 2 state solution at any cost. This created discomfort for the center and mainstream Israeli Jews. What might seem like the best solution for a Jew living in America could spell disaster for a Jew living in Israel. From there, a gap began to form between the Israeli and American Jews.
With the election of Donald Trump, this gap has become even larger, but for much of the opposite reasons. While it remains to be seen if Trump will go through with any of the promises made during his campaign, the consensus among Israelis is that Trump will be more pro-Israel than Obama was during his tenure. Trump claims that he will take measures to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; this is something that most of the Israeli population thinks has been long due. Historically, the United States did not want to take sides for an Israeli-Palestinian solution, so they did not want to recognize Jerusalem as wholly Israeli, so the embassy is, and has been, in Tel Aviv. Trump has also been viewed by experts as an isolationist, meaning he would not try to enforce regulations and laws onto other countries. This is seen as a plus for the Israeli government as they would be able to run themselves with little to no enforcement or coercing from the United States.
However, many Jews in America are disturbed by the President Elect and the alt-right that seem to be validated by his rise to the Presidency. There are claims that Trump has said anti-Semitic things which, while never endorsed, were never denounced. This along with the dangers to minorities as well as the racism and hate crimes that have been empowered by Trump, leads to a majority of liberal Jews to be completely against him.
There has been a shift from a President who did great things domestically, but was (some say) over critical of Israel, to a President who many fear as a danger domestically, but will be, by all accounts so far, pro-Israel. The Israeli government has yet to make any official statements on Trump’s election and Israelis cannot shows support for him (even if they are happy with his stance on Israel) in order to not validate fears of the American Jewry. The support of the Israeli and American Jew’s domestic self-interests is putting their relationship on very thin ice. To make matters more complicated, with American politics shift to the radicalization of parties and policies, if Trump is pro-Israel it would cause an equal and opposite reaction from the radical left. This would in effect, make Israel a partisan issue.
As both Israeli Jews and American Jews struggle to find common ground during such polarizing times both domestically and internationally, the gap between the two becomes greater and greater. An Israeli student on campus, who chose to remain anonymous, shared their experience on the strain between the American and Israeli Jewish relationship with me.
“A few days ago, I went to a conference (most of the crowd was Jewish) in which it was emphasized that choosing Trump was a bad decision for American society. It wasn’t something that was supposed to be/ allowed to be said on stage. Some people left the hall, angry, but the fact that most people didn’t, and the speaker felt comfortable enough to say that voting republican was a bad decision it affirms the alleged consensus on the ground that voting Trump, for the common American Jewish community was a bad decision for American society and that the larger Jewish community is alienated by Trump’s views rhetoric’s and possible future policies. Such a view can very well effect the American Israeli Jewish relationship in the future, as the reaction to Trump’s election in Israel was subtler, if not somewhat favorable.”-Anonymous