Skip to main content

Which US presidential candidate is good for Israel?

When wondering what Israelis think makes a “good president” for the United States, it depends on whom you ask.

As with many and varied issues, so the question of which US presidential candidate is “best for Israel” has many and varied answers: First, it depends on whom you ask — Israeli Jews or American Jews; second, which Jewish Israelis and which Jewish Americans; third, whether one asks during a presidential election campaign or the day after the winner walks into the White House. Public opinion polls indicate that a candidate favored by most members of the largest Jewish community, outside Israel, does not necessarily enjoy the same popularity among the Israeli Jewish public. Thus, for example, the incumbent, President Barack Obama, garnered the support of more than two-thirds of American Jewish voters in his two election campaigns. On the other hand, were it up to Israelis, a black man whose middle name is Hussein would only have been allowed into the White House on a guided tour.

This gap is largely the result of the different agendas of these two communities. Jewish Americans (or American Jews, if you will), like other minorities, tend traditionally to support Democratic candidates, who espouse liberal, pluralistic values. For these Jewish voters, the candidate’s attitude toward Israel lags behind other issues that engage middle- and upper-middle-class Americans: the economy, welfare, education, abortion, school prayer, and so on. On the other hand, when Israelis ask whether a candidate or a presidential candidate is “good for the Jews,” they mean for Israeli Jews. Obama’s party affiliation did not increase or detract from his popularity among Israelis. For most Israelis — that majority that supports the right-wing, pro-settler government — a “good president” is one who does not challenge the current Israeli regime. At the other end of the political spectrum, on the left, one can find many who yearn for a US president who would force Israel to shut down the settlement enterprise and withdraw from the territories.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.