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Israeli Jews see Sanders as least ‘pro-Israel’ candidate

Trump and Clinton regarded by Israelis as most staunch supporters of Jewish state, while Cruz fairs poorly in poll

A woman at a rally for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in New York City's historic Washington Square Park on April 13, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
A woman at a rally for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in New York City's historic Washington Square Park on April 13, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Only some 5 percent of Jewish Israelis think Jewish Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is the most “pro-Israel” candidate on the campaign trail, giving him the lowest ranking of all the presidential candidates, while one in three think that title belongs to GOP juggernaut Donald Trump, a poll released Wednesday shows.

The survey, released by the Ruderman family foundation, also showed a mere 6% of those polled think Republican candidate Ted Cruz, whose Israel support is underpinned by his Evangelical Christian beliefs, is actually more pro Israel than his rivals, while 31% thought Hillary Clinton was the most staunch supporter of Israel.

Only 1% named Ohio Governor John Kasich, in third place in the Republican primary field, as most pro-Israel, while 24% said they did not know.

“Israelis have a heightened concern over the outcome of the US presidential election since they know that the United States is Israel’s most important ally in the world,” Ruderman Family Foundation heqad Jay Ruderman said in a statement. “Israelis also understand that the American Jewish community plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the United States remains a strong defender of the Jewish State.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during a campaign event, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, speaks during a campaign event, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Sanders, who says he is a proponent of Israel’s security and survival, has come under fire in recent weeks for comments deemed overly critical or ignorant of Israel, including citing a wildly inflated death toll for Gazan casualties in a 2014 war and accusing Israel of using disproportionate force.

He has also called for a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this week, Sanders raised eyebrows by naming outspoken Israel critic Simone Zimmerman as his point person for outreach to the Jewish community. Zimmerman opposes Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank, wants Hillel to allow participation by groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, is against Jewish federation funding for Israeli projects in the West Bank and wrote favorably of the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-BDS group, to get “international corporations to stop profiting off human rights abuses.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the La Crosse Center on April 4, 2016 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the La Crosse Center on April 4, 2016 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

While Trump was cheered at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington for saying he would dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and bolster Israel’s international standing, his Israel commitment has also been called into question over his insistence that he would be “neutral” between Israel and the Palestinians in trying to broker a peace deal as president.

Trump was also criticized for suggesting he would force Israel to repay in billions of dollars in military aid from the US.

The poll of 500 Hebrew-speaking Israelis was conducted by the Dialog center on March 27, at the start of a visit to the United States by Knesset members under the auspices of the Ruderman Foundation.

Some 84% of the respondents said American Jews “must actively stand alongside Israel on issues” such as foreign policy and security, while 9% disagreed.

Other findings showed that Israelis believe their lawmakers should take American Jews into consideration when drafting laws and American Jews should stand alongside Israel on issues of foreign policy and security.

Asked whether they “agree or disagree with the notion that Israeli Knesset members should take American Jews into consideration while drafting laws that might affect them in Israel,” 53% of the respondents said they agreed and 32 percent said they disagreed, with 15% saying they had no opinion.

Some 86 percent of respondents also said they believe Knesset members should have “close ties” with American Jews. Forty percent said they believe that relations between Israel and the United States have deteriorated in the past two years, with 30% saying the ties are unchanged and another 10% believing they have improved.

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