Five Things to Know This Week: Most Jews Dislike Him, Yet Trump Carries On
1. American Jews still dislike Trump
A May 22 survey of Jewish voters conducted by the Jewish Electorate Institute tells us something everyone already knows: Jewish voters dislike Donald Trump and 67 percent of them would vote for any generic Democrat running against Trump in 2020. More interesting are the details—what it is exactly that American Jews find disheartening about the president. For most, Jews are simply loyal Democrats. They find Trump’s immigration policy of family separation objectionable (78%), disagree with his views on gun control and climate change (74%) as well as with his decisions on taxes (71%), healthcare (68%) and foreign policy (68%).
These numbers are, for most, consistent with Jewish trends relating to Republican positions in general. The new element unique to Trump is how he deals with anti-Semitism. 71% of Jewish Americans believe there’s a problem in the way he has dealt with the surge of anti-Semitic activity. Furthermore, a majority of Jews polled (59%) believe that Trump is “at least partially responsible for the targeted attacks on synagogues, including those in Pittsburgh and Poway.” When asked what is their greatest concern about confronting anti-Semitism, the highest ranking response was: “President Trump encouraging ultra-right extremists committing violent attacks.”
Why do these numbers matter? First, because they further weaponize anti-Semitism as a political issue—this time for Democrats. When asked what would be the best way to improve the security of Jews in America, 39% responded: Work to get Donald Trump out of office. Only 12% thought the best response would be adding armed security to Jewish institutions. This means Jewish Americans, now feeling more insecure than any time in recent decades, see the Republican president as a major source of their anxieties and insecurity. Come 2020, they are more than likely to take these fears to the voting booth. The survey also highlights the rift between Israeli and Jewish American views of Trump, even on the sensitive issue of fighting anti-Semitism. On the day the new survey was released, Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer took to the stage at the embassy’s Israeli independence day reception praising Trump for his response to the deadly shooting in Pittsburgh. Dermer said he’d like to “thank this administration for speaking out so forcefully against a resurgent anti-Semitism both here in America and around the globe.”
2. Trump wades into internal Israeli politics
As of Tuesday afternoon, Israel’s political system is deadlocked in what could either be a real or a manufactured crisis. Netanyahu, with only a day left to form a new government, can’t nail down a right-wing coalition due to disagreements between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu over a law that would increase Haredi conscription to military service. Israelis are skeptical about how much of this dispute is real conflict (with Netanyahu threatening to call new elections as early as September) and how much of it is last minute posturing of two sides seeking a better deal in the future coalition. But there’s at least one person who seems to take Avigdor Lieberman’s threats seriously: Donald Trump. The president of the United States tweeted Monday his hope that “things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever.” Some have expressed shock with Trump’s overt attempt to tip the political scale in Israel, but to his credit, Trump has never made a secret of his support for Netanyahu. He’s not acting behind the scenes nor is he engaged in any backroom maneuvers to help his struggling ally. Trump is for Netanyahu and he’s willing to state it clearly—even if this is seen as meddling with another country’s politics.
3. Kushner and Greenblatt embark on peace plan road trip
With the economic “workshop” in Bahrain just around the corner and with expectations for the upcoming unveiling of the administration’s “deal of the century,” Jared Kushner is taking on a more visible role. The president’s son-in-law and top adviser is heading to the region to help personally finalize the remaining details and plan the rollout.
Kushner, alongside Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, will visit Israel, Jordan and Morocco, aiming to shore up support for the plan before it is formally presented. The Palestinians have already made clear they will not meet with Kushner during his visit and that they have no plans of attending the Bahrain summit.
4. Pompeo’s Jewish community’s charm offensive
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is doing the rounds in Jewish circles. Last week he was the top Trump administration official at the Israeli embassy’s Independence Day reception and this week he’s meeting in New York for closed door meetings with leaders of AIPAC and of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations. While promoting Trump’s peace plan is part of Pompeo’s portfolio, it is not his main focus. Pompeo’s top issue right now is countering Iran, a topic dear to the hearts of many Jewish officials he’s speaking with.
5. Mayor Pete on Israel
Pete Buttigieg, one of the most intriguing faces in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, took time to meet with Jewish leaders last week. They talked anti-Semitism and they talked Israel and how it’s playing a role in Democratic politics. According to reports from the off-record meeting, Buttigieg remained true to his reputation of being a great listener and demonstrating knowledge while avoiding views that may seem too controversial. His positions on Israel, as presented at the meeting, place him pretty much in the center of the Democratic consensus, which, by now, is pretty far away from the GOP mainstream on Israel. He supports the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, believes the Palestinian leadership is misguided in its approach to the conflict, and yes, thinks the U.S. should play a role in “guiding” Israel toward better policies, in order to steer it away from “steps that you think are harmful to you and to them.”