Land exchanges between Israel and the Palestinian territories are likely to be part of any final peace settlement, an outcome that could be complicated by views held by Americans. While only four-in-ten American Jews (40 percent) believe the land that is now Israel was given to the Jewish people by God, this sentiment is held by an overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews (84 percent). Fewer Reform Jews (35 percent) share this sentiment. Notably, other Pew surveys show that more American Christians than Jews actually believe God gave Israel to the Jews: 55 percent of U.S. Christians, including 82 percent of white evangelical Protestants.
As the peace talks progress, the role played by the United States may become ever more of an issue. Today, more than half of American Jews say U.S. support for Israel is about right (54 percent), although a substantial minority believes that Washington is not supportive enough of the Jewish state (31 percent). Just 11 percent think the United States is too supportive of Israel. By comparison, 41 percent of the general public thinks support for Israel is about right, while the rest are nearly evenly divided between those who say America is not supportive enough and those who say it is too supportive of the Jewish state.
Opinions about U.S. support for Israel vary considerably across denominations, with Orthodox Jews (53 percent) particularly likely to say Washington is not supportive enough, while only 30 percent of Reform Jews think America is not backing Jerusalem sufficiently. Interestingly, more white evangelical Protestants than Jews think the U.S. currently is not sufficiently supportive of Israel (46 percent vs. 31 percent).
But there is reason for hope. Indeed, looking into the future, American Jews are more optimistic than the U.S. general public that a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully: 61 percent of American Jews say this is possible, compared with 50 percent of the public overall. But, again, all Jews do not agree. Majorities of Reform (58 percent) and Conservative (62 percent) Jews think peaceful coexistence is possible. But most Orthodox Jews (61 percent) do not believe a two-state solution will work.
So, as Washington ramps up its efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians to fashion a lasting settlement of their differences, there is no uniform American Jewish viewpoint on the peace process. American Jews are hopeful about the objective, but divided on the details. And the view held by many foreigners, that Jewish Americans are knee-jerk supporters of the Israeli position on the Palestinian territories, is just wrong.