Who Backs Israel?

Given the growing religious/political divide in the United States, a poll taken by Pew is particularly pertinent, especially given the recent activities in Israel and the Gaza.  The white evangelical backing of Donald Trump and his agenda for the Middle East is striking but, for those of us who grew up in an Evangelical ecosystem, not terribly surprising.  What is surprising is the level of support for the state of Israel, particularly when one looks at a comparison between the levels of support from the American Christian community and the American Jewish community.

Here is what Pew found regarding American attitudes toward the existence of Israel as a nation given to the Jewish people by God based on religious affiliation, noting that the numbers don’t always add up to 100 percent because some respondents declined to answer or said that they “didn’t know”:

American Jewish respondents:

1.) Jews of all types – 40 percent yes, 27 percent no

2.) Religious Jews – 47 percent yes, 27 percent no

3.) Non-religious Jews – 16 percent yes, 27 percent no

4.) Ultra-orthodox Jews – 81 percent yes, 13 percent no

5.) Modern orthodox Jews – 90 percent yes, 5 percent no

6.) Conservative Jews – 54 percent yes, 25 percent no

7.) Reform Jews – 35 percent yes, 35 percent no

American Non-Jewish respondents:

1.) Non-Jews as a whole – 44 percent yes, 34 percent no

2.) Christians overall – 55 percent yes, 32 percent no

3.) Protestants overall – 64 percent yes, 26 percent no

4.) White Evangelicals – 82 percent yes, 12 percent no

5.) White Mainline – 47 percent yes, 37 percent no

6.) Black Protestant – 51 percent yes, 39 percent no

7.) Catholics overall – 38 percent yes, 45 percent no

8.) White, Non-Hispanic Catholics – 34 percent yes, 51 percent no

9.) Unaffiliated – 16 percent yes, 37 percent no.

It is interesting to see the wide-ranging relationship between religious affiliation and the belief in the God-given right of the Jewish possession of Israel. At 82 percent, white evangelical Christians’ support for the Jewish possession of their birthright is higher than for any other religious group other than modern orthodox Jews and is nearly twice the level of religious Jewish support for the concept of a God-given promise of a Jewish homeland.

If we look at another aspect of support for Israel, when asked if American support for the state of Israel is sufficient, 54 percent of Jews say that support for Israel is “about right” and 31 percent say that it is not sufficient.  In contrast, only 31 percent of white evangelical Protestants feel that American support for Israel is “about right” and 46 percent say that the United States is not supportive enough of Israel.

Lastly, when asked if there is the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution (i.e. Palestine and Israel coexisting peacefully), 61 percent of Jewish Americans say yes and 33 percent say no.  In contrast, only 42 percent of white evangelical American Protestants say yes and 50 percent say that a peaceful solution is not possible.

Given that white evangelical Protestant support for Donald Trump and, by extension, his agenda for Israel is at an all-time high as shown here:

…and that 69 percent would prefer Trump as the presidential candidate in the 2020 presidential election, one would think that Israel has it made.  Unfortunately for the pro-Israel cause, the religious landscape of America is changing with the percentage of evangelical Christians in America dropping by 3.4 percent over the years between 2007 and 2014, now representing only one in four Americans.  As well, the demographics of evangelical Christianity are changing significantly; in 2007, only 19 percent of evangelical Protestants were racial and ethnic minorities compared to 24 percent in 2014.  This demographic change within the evangelical movement could play a significant role in how voters view Washington’s preferential treatment of Israel and its status as the God-designated home for Jews since a majority of these voters tend to avoid voting Republican.

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