This might be the most surprising poll from a wild, unpredictable 2016 campaign: One in four Israeli Jews would vote for Donald Trump.
The real estate mogul does not have a coherent position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, except to break with decades of Republican orthodoxy and announce that he would be “neutral.” His GOP rivals repeated that line endlessly, hoping it would blunt Trump’s rise in the polls. It didn’t.
His campaign, run in the style of an authoritarian strongman, has earned him sharp criticism from American Jews, the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. And his backers include a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who hopes Trump will “rehabilitate” Hitler’s image, a statement that ought to give pause to anyone in Israel. Indeed, the big question looming over this week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention is just how many delegates will walk out during Trump’s speech.
Yet, a recent poll found Trump was by far Israel’s favorite GOP candidate, and the second-most popular overall. A plurality even thought he would be best at “representing Israel’s interests,” better than Hillary Clinton, with her decades of advocacy at the highest levels of government.
Those numbers could rise further still, after a spate of positive coverage in Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Israel HaYom, owned by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. After months of scant coverage, the shift is a sign that Adelson—a major force in both Israeli and American politics—is reluctantly embracing Trump.