In major shift, survey finds Israelis prefer Biden to Trump as next US president

Poll finds Jewish public opinion has sharply swung in incumbent’s direction following support for Israel in wake of Oct. 7, after overwhelming 2020 support for Republican rival

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

US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29, 2020. (Jim Watson and Saul Loeb / AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29, 2020. (Jim Watson and Saul Loeb / AFP)

Forty percent of Jewish Israelis want US President Joe Biden to be reelected in the 2024 presidential election, compared to just 26.2% who back Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, a poll conducted on Wednesday found.

The results of the poll indicated a massive swing in Israelis’ support for the current president, who has made a series of gestures to the Jewish state since the Hamas onslaught of October 7 while his predecessor has spent time at rallies mocking the intelligence failure that led to the devastating attack and criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump once enjoyed overwhelming support from Israelis, with a 2020 poll showing that 63% of Israelis had preferred him as president compared to just 17% who said they’d back Biden.

The results appeared to represent an extremely rare instance — the first in at least two decades — in which the Israeli public favors a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican.

In the days following the Hamas assault, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and some 240 were abducted by thousands of Hamas-led terrorists who breached the country’s border with Gaza, Trump found himself in hot water with Israel, Biden and even Republican rivals over comments he made at a campaign rally criticizing Jerusalem over the intelligence failure that led to the Hamas assault, calling Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk” and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group “very smart.”

Several days later, he was reported to have been privately calling for Netanyahu to be “impeached” for failing to anticipate the massive Hamas rampage.

During meetings about the war with pro-Israel Republican allies, Trump was said to have focused largely on his distaste for Netanyahu, whom he has yet to forgive for congratulating Biden after the latter won the 2020 election.

Then-US president Donald Trump (left) welcoming visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Several weeks later, during the weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas in late November, Trump criticized the Biden administration for not ensuring that US citizens were among the initial group of hostages released from captivity.

“Has anybody noticed that Hamas has returned people from other Countries but, so far, has not returned one American Hostage?” Trump wrote on his Truth social media platform on November 25, just one day after the truce came into effect.

“There is only one reason for that, NO RESPECT FOR OUR COUNTRY OR OUR LEADERSHIP. This is a very sad and dark period of America!” he added.

In contrast, the Biden administration has pledged steadfast support for Israel in the wake of the deadly attack. Biden himself visited Israel early in the war, and has met family members of some of those being held hostage in Gaza, vowing to continue arming Israel in its war to topple the Gaza terror group.

However, it has more recently increased pressure on Jerusalem to boost aid to the Strip, wrap up the high-intensity phase of the war, and accept handing the Palestinian Authority a governing role in post-war Gaza.

US President Joe Biden (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Also in Wednesday’s poll, which was conducted by Midgam and published on the podcast of Nadav Perry, a former journalist with the predecessor to Channel 13, Israelis were asked for their thoughts on the performance of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.

Fifty-seven percent of the public thinks Netanyahu is primarily concerned with political matters, compared to just 27% of the public who believe he is most concerned with matters relating to the war, the poll found.

In contrast, 20% of the public believe that Gantz is most concerned with political matters, compared to 73.6% who say he is most concerned with matters related to the war.

Eight percent of the public responded that they believe Gallant is most concerned with political matters, compared to 84.7% who believe he is most concerned with matters related to the war.

Lapid had the worst numbers of the four individuals polled, with 64% of the public responding that he is most concerned with political matters, compared to 17.9% who believe he is most concerned with war-related matters.

The Midgam poll was conducted online and surveyed 503 Jewish adult respondents. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4%.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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