Biden less popular among Israelis than Trump, but seen as less dangerous

Pew survey finds that Israel’s government less popular among Americans than the country itself and its people, reaffirms Jewish state’s poor standing among young Democrats

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israeli supporters of Donald Trump wave United States and Israeli flags to support his candidacy outside the US embassy in Jerusalem, on October 27, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)
Israeli supporters of Donald Trump wave United States and Israeli flags to support his candidacy outside the US embassy in Jerusalem, on October 27, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)

NEW YORK — Sixty percent of Israelis support US President Joe Biden’s handling of global affairs, which is a drop from their feelings toward his predecessor, even though they were more likely to describe Donald Trump as “dangerous,” according to a Pew Research Center poll released Monday.

Trump’s handling of foreign policy was approved by 71 percent of Israeli respondents in March 2019, with analysts crediting his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there, along with just about every other foreign policy decision regarding the Middle East that he made as president.

But despite the fondness that the 1,000 Israeli respondents expressed toward Trump’s policies, far more of them (42%) described the former US president as dangerous, compared to just 21% who felt the same way about Biden.

The survey further demonstrated Trump’s popularity in Israel, where the president is viewed more favorably than in just about any other country in the world, including the United States.

Jewish Israelis were twice as likely to express confidence in Biden (65%), compared to 34% of Arab Israelis, the poll found.

Nearly three-quarters of Israelis believe the US-Israel relationship is in good shape, and even more Americans — 89% of respondents — feel the same.

Asked about Biden’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 31% of Israelis said he favors Israel too much, 26% said he favors the Palestinians too much, and 34% said he is striking the right balance.

The president is due to touch down in Israel on Wednesday for a 48-hour visit that will include a stop in the West Bank.

Pew also polled 3,581 American adults, revealing that while most hold favorable views of the State of Israel and the Israeli people, their perception is less positive when it comes to Israel’s government.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled in late March indicated positive views of the Israeli people, 55% of them shared similar feelings about Israel as a country, while just 48% could say the same thing about the government.

While the bulk of those who regarded the government unfavorably was made up of those who also view the country in a negative light, the opposite was true for 16% of respondents.

And among the subset of those who view the country unfavorably, 28% still said that they had positive feelings toward the Israeli people.

The survey also strengthened long-established trends showing the Jewish state as being far more favorable among older and conservative Americans, compared to younger liberal ones.

Roughly 69% of respondents above the age of 65 and 60% of those between the ages of 50 and 64 held favorable opinions of Israel, while 56% of those below the age of 30 view Israel unfavorably.

Across party lines, roughly 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents maintain positive views regarding Israel, compared to just 44% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents.

The survey had a 2.3% margin of error.

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