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2019 Annual Assessment

The triangular relationship between Jerusalem, Washington, and American Jewry constitutes a strategic asset and decisive force-multiplier for Israel and the Jewish people. Over the past year, an imbalance has emerged in this triangle. The Jerusalem-Washington side has displayed outstanding support and cooperation, but there have been eruptions of discontent on the Jerusalem-US Jewry side.
The Trump administration has proven its friendship for Israel on numerous occasions. In 2018, the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem; in 2019, a presidential proclamation recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights (March 25, 2019). As an expression of thanks, Netanyahu convened his cabinet to dedicate a new locality in the Golan Heights named Ramat Trump in honor of the American president (June 16, 2019). US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman announced (June 8, 2019) that Israel has the right to annex at least part of the West Bank,18 and there have been reports that a strategic alliance between the two countries is being contemplated.19 A recent testimony to the close strategic cooperation between the two countries was the successful testing of the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic weapon system, which took place in Alaska (July 28, 2019). That system is designed to intercept ballistic missiles from space, and it is considered the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Strong sympathy for Israel characterizes the Republican side of the US political map. A February 2019 Gallup poll found that, in regard to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, 76 percent of Republicans sympathize with Israel, while the figure is 43 percent for Democrats. The liberal-intellectual circles that influence the Democratic Party raise objections concerning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, discrimination against Arab Israelis, gender inequality, lack of separation of religion and state, prioritization of Jewish values over democratic values, and more. In contrast, Republicans exhibit robust support for Israel, and vigorously reject the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms American interests or erodes the values shared by Israel and the US.

In today’s polarized American society, it is becoming more difficult to maintain bipartisan sympathy for Israel, and temptation is growing to seek immediate gain from the supportive (Republican) side while disregarding the price Israel may have to pay in the long run. Indeed, some Democratic presidential hopefuls do not hesitate to voice criticism of Israeli policy (including threatening to cut aid to Israel should it annex West Bank territory, and announcing intentions to cancel withdrawal from the JCPOA). Such criticism intensified following Netanyahu’s decision, encouraged by Trump (August 15, 2019), to forbid entry into Israel of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two Democrat members of Congress supportive of BDS. In the aftermath, President Trump stated (August 20, 2019) that Jews who vote for a Democrat “show either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” (he later clarified his statement by saying that he meant disloyalty to Israel). Trump’s statement sparked outcry within the Jewish community, and the president was accused of encouraging anti-Semitism for his own political interests. Such a reality where attitudes toward Israel become party-dependent poses a major challenge to the traditional strategic objective of Israeli governments since the founding of the state: to maintain bipartisan support, and to preserve the solidarity of all US Jews (most of whom are Democrats).20

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