Political roundtable examined US influence on Israel


As the 2024 US presidential elections loom on the horizon, Israel finds itself wondering which of the two major political parties – Republican or Democrat – will best serve its interests.

To examine this question, a diverse group of journalists and thought leaders recently convened in Haifa for a roundtable that promised to shed light on the complex intersections of Israeli interests in American politics, as well as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Led by The Dor Moria Association, discussions centered around their September study that polled the thoughts of a thousand Israelis from all walks of life. This groundbreaking research sought to uncover which of the two major US political parties Israelis believed could be a better ally for their nation in the lead-up to the 2024 federal election, and whether Israel should maintain a stance of neutrality in the face of the tumultuous events unfolding in Ukraine.

“Without an image of the future, it’s hard to achieve the right future. And in order to create that image, we need to understand what expectations Israelis have,” noted Igor Kaminnik, director of NGO Dor Moria, at the forum.

The September 28 roundtable participants also included:

Lev Mashin – senior researcher at Reichman University, and specialist in Russia and Eastern Europe,

Mikhail Finkel – lawyer, political scientist, rabbi,

Aaron Cohen – Human Rights Specialist, Ukraine Disaster Relief (USA),

Lola Kolpina – PhD in Sociology, Research Fellow at the University of Haifa, Research Center, Director of the International Analytical Center for Human Development, and head of the study’s research group,

Sofya Gugelev – orientalist,

Roy Jankelowitz – Israeli journalist.

The study presented at the roundtable, “Israelis’ expectations of the US presidential election,” was conducted by the Maagar Mochot Sociological Center, in September 2023, commissioned by Dor Moria Association.

It revealed that secular and Arabic-speaking Israelis prefer a Democrat win (43-45% versus 18-29% to religious Jews). Religious Jews prefer a Republican win (33-50% versus 8-24% among Arabs and secular Israelis). Russian-speaking Israelis tended to favor Republicans, unlike native Israelis.

Respondents to the poll generally agreed that a Republican victory would better secure, “independence of Israel’s foreign policy and Israeli national security.” Little difference of opinion was noted on how respondents felt about whether the US election would affect the Israeli economy, or peace with the Palestinians.

“Israelis should not necessarily put all their expectations on the Republican party,” Cohen said, “Israel has to keep in mind that the Democrats have in the past been supportive of Israel. Political change can always happen and the rise of powers are changing in the US.”

Finkel pointed out that Israel, smaller than New Jersey, currently receives $3.5 billion in aid from the US. He added that it was unfortunate that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has not yet been invited to the Biden White House, with a year left until the election.

“What does it mean? Well, his party, obviously, and him, don’t like Netanyahu, and they don’t like the democratic choice of the Israeli people. They don’t like the Israeli coalition,” Finkel said.

Dor Moriah is a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded by Russian-speaking Israelis. Among their focus, is seeking to “improve the socio-economic status of Russian-speaking repatriates by influencing the implementation of political decisions at local and state levels.” The roundtable was part of their Haifa Format, a tool for public diplomacy created in 2017 geared towards Israelis of Russian and Ukrainian background, with the aim to analyze and discuss issues of socio-political importance relevant to their backgrounds.

Created by scientists, journalists, opinion leaders and NGO activists from various countries, they use lobbying, analytical papers and projects to further build bridges.

Meanwhile, another question was posed, whether Israel should take a side in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict or stay neutral. Dor Moria’s research included investigating Israeli sentiment toward the Ukrainian conflict, and presented its findings for discussion. 60% of those polled see deteriorating relations with Russia as the main threat to Israel, whereas 3% are afraid of spoiling relations with Ukraine.

Four-fifths of those polled said that Israel should maintain neutrality in global military conflicts and 42% of those polled believe that Israel should not supply weapons to countries in military conflict. Their rationale was to maintain its good relations with other countries.

Jankelowitz noted: “I understand that Israel is taking the right status by not exactly getting involved in the Ukraine conflict,” owing to how many Jews are at risk in each of these countries. Finkel added that Israel is doing the most it can in bringing Jews from these countries in, and it’s important that these countries in conflict maintain good relations with Israel for this reason.

“I think we have a consensus here today that the neutrality of the Israeli government, is the greatest wisdom,” said Finkel.

As this critical election year unfolds, the discussions held at the roundtable offer a glimpse into the complex web of factors that will shape Israel’s political path in the next few years.

By: Dave Gordon


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