Most Israelis care deeply about the outcome of the U.S. elections and have strong opinions about who should be the next U.S. president.
As an American living in Israel, I’m frequently asked what Israelis think about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the U.S.-Israel relationship in general. I surveyed (not scientific) other young Jerusalemites from three Facebook groups with a simple question: Which U.S. presidential candidate do you prefer, and why?
The results of my survey largely echo conversations I’ve had with Israelis around the city. Many of the arguments for and against the candidates mirror American discourse, but with an understandable focus on how these deliberations affect the State of Israel.
The majority of respondents preferred Trump to be the next president. Jerusalemite Trump supporters, much like Trump himself, were adamant and direct, one candidly stating, “Trump! Without a doubt he is the better candidate. He has strong positions and supports Israel.” Another simply described Trump as “the one and only.” Of the respondents who favored Trump, most said they believe he is “better for the Jews” or “better for Israel.” One woman said, “Trump openly supports Israel and he is our fan. He opposes terrorism, and calls it by its name. Obama has bad relations with Israel and Hillary would continue it.” Another opined, “Only Trump! Why? Because he has a Jewish daughter, so he is for us.”
The second most oft-stated reason for preferring Trump was that he is viewed as a better option than Clinton, who many see as not pro-Israel enough. “Hillary said that Hamas fired missiles from schools because Gaza is dense and they have nowhere else to shoot from. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I do not know Trump and his platform, but obviously another term of the Obama administration — Hillary — can pose a great danger to all humanity and especially to our small country,” one man said. Another argued, “A woman president would be a good thing, but not one with a criminal record that would lead to destruction and stupidity.”
Trump supporters tended to admire his unapologetic directness, responding, “Trump, mainly because I’m tired of political correctness and it’s time for someone to tell it like it is,” and another exclaiming, “Trump does his thing and does what it takes, like Putin!”
Those supporting Hillary Clinton considered her a more capable leader: “In terms of the candidates — just not Trump. He is a winner, but I do not think he has the ability to run a country.” Similarly, another claimed, “Hillary Clinton is the most appropriate – in all respects. I do not understand how Trump slid into the game.”
Unlike staunch Trump supporters, Clinton supporters tended to be more anti-Trump than pro-Clinton. One said, “I prefer Clinton over Trump although both of them are awful in my eyes. Clinton has a serious credibility problem and Trump lacks common sense to lead the country. He is not familiar with the bureaucratic mindset. Pick your poision. In the end, it would be preferable for Clinton to constitute an impotent government over Trump’s infantile parade of racism.”
Clinton supporters also tended to view Trump as temperamental and unpredictable. One man said, “No one knows exactly what the positions of Trump will be, while Clinton has been consistent and clear over the years in her support of Israel.”
Others suggest that Trump lacks the skills needed to run a country, one exclaiming, “The guy does not give a direct answer to questions, showing zero knowledge of international relations and politics.” Commenters also complained of Trump’s prejudice against minority groups: “Many young people look at the impact of the president’s values on the U.S. and on the world. That is why there were significant expressions of support for Bernie Sanders, because of his attitude towards the weaker sections of society. So now when Sanders is unfortunately no longer in the race, despite lack of affection for Clinton, she would be the preferred candidate.”
Although over a hundred people voiced their opinions, this survey may not be representative of the entire population of Israel. Jerusalem is more conservative than other Israeli cities, largely due to its religious and hyper-political nature. In addition, the respondents were mostly young people active in social networks on Facebook, which may also have affected the results. Nevertheless, this subjective survey is likely to accurately represent young Jerusalemites’ thoughts about the candidates in the upcoming U.S. elections.