We Jews may be small in number, but we are certainly diverse. The latest example can be found in the results of a new American Jewish Committee poll that finds Jews the biggest critics — and supporters — of President Donald Trump.
Seventy-seven percent of the 1,000 Jews polled disapprove of the way the president is doing his job, which is 20 percent higher than the national average. This is consistent with the fact that American Jews tend to be liberal and vote Democratic. Yet 71 percent of Orthodox Jews approve of the president’s work to date, another indication of the increasing divide between Orthodox and liberal Jews.
It would appear that the fault line here is Israel. Many Orthodox Jews put the issue of Israel at the top of their list in determining whom to vote for in a presidential election. And watching the ease and camaraderie between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations this week, especially in contrast to the Barack Obama-Netanyahu relationship of the last eight years, one can understand why many Orthodox Jews breathed a sigh of relief when Trump was elected.
They are pleased that he is not Obama, that he displays a warmth not only toward Israel’s leader but to its people and purpose, and they appreciate that the president has returned Iran to its place as dangerous enemy rather than potential future ally, as Obama had hoped. Added bonuses: Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador, defending Israel and criticizing the bias, bigotry, and hypocrisy of the U.N.; and the administration’s interest in vouchers, as symbolized by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, an advocate of charter schools and possible angel for parents struggling mightily with day school tuitions.
Critics may point out that while Trump has talked a good game on Israel in terms of pledging initial support for settlements and promising to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and tear up the Iran nuclear deal, none of that has come to pass. No matter, say those who defend the president in terms of his positions on Israel. Whether or not he will follow through on his promises, the Washington-Jerusalem vibes are strong and positive, and there’s little doubt that Netanyahu will find relief from the pressure the Obama administration put on him.
The two leaders addressed the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday and were on the same page in denouncing Iran, calling for tougher action to ensure that Tehran does not become a nuclear threat. Specifics were spare, but it’s clear Trump and Netanyahu are in agreement here. It’s still doubtful, despite his tough rhetoric, that the president will actually tear up the Iran deal, much as he hates it, because to do so now would give the mullahs a green light on producing nuclear weapons (see, for example, North Korea). But if he, with prodding from Netanyahu, can find a way to diminish the danger Iran presents to the region and the world without setting off a nuclear arms race, we’re all for it.