A New Survey Suggests That American Jews Aren’t Growing Disenchanted with Israel

Nov. 14 2018

According to the conventional wisdom, Jews in the U.S. are losing sympathy for the Jewish state because of its failure to make peace with the Palestinians, or because of its alleged rightward drift, or because of the building of new housing in the West Bank, or because of the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu (under whom settlement growth has in fact slowed). But a recent poll conducted by the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group J Street, which is itself deeply invested in this conventional wisdom, suggests otherwise. Elliott Abrams writes:

The survey asked, “Compared to five-to-ten years ago, do you feel more positive, more negative, or about the same toward Israel?” The result: 55 percent said “about the same,” 26 percent said “more positive,” and 19 percent said “more negative.” Respondents were asked “Does the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank make you feel positive about Israel, negative about Israel, or have no impact on how you feel about Israel?” The result: 48 percent said it had “no impact,” 32 percent said “a negative impact,” and 19 percent said expansion of settlements had a positive impact on [their attitudes].

Similar results emerged from questions about Israeli policies regarding non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism. Abrams continues:

Those numbers cannot have made J Street’s publicists very happy, nor can they cheer the propagandists who are constantly telling us that such Israeli actions (or more narrowly, Netanyahu’s policies) are simply ruining relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. But relations are not ruined and more people said they felt more positive about Israel now than said the opposite—with most saying their views had not changed. And the impact of the great brouhaha about treatment of non-Orthodox Judaism turns out to be exaggerated. . . .

[In short], the J Street survey suggests that there is no great crisis in relations between the American Jewish community and Israel.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: American Jewry, Conservative Judaism, Israel & Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, J Street, Reform Judaism, Settlements

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy