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With Biden victory, ultra-Orthodox lose influence, AIPAC and J Street gain

Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election will change the balance of power within the American Jewish community, elevating progressive organizations that supported the former Vice President and weakening the influence of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox groups that supported U.S. President Donald Trump over the past four years.

A poll published by J Street this week found that 77 percent of Jewish voters in the United States cast their ballots for President-Elect Joe Biden on Tuesday and only 21 percent for Donald Trump.

Assuming this figure is correct, that would mean that Biden captured a larger share of the Jewish vote than did Hillary Clinton in 2016 (71 percent) and Barack Obama did 2012 (69 percent).

Clearly, Trump’s attempts to portray himself as the most “pro-Israel” president in U.S. history made little to no impression on the vast majority of American Jews. These largely liberal voters either didn’t buy it or were far more concerned with other issues, presumably domestic, when they went out to vote.

Trump often boasted that he had a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law and Jewish grandchildren, but for the four years he served as president, the vast majority of American Jews – that is to say, Jewish liberals – felt ostracized and unwelcome in his White House.

They were especially uncomfortable with his warm embrace of evangelical Christians and the powerful influence these staunch conservatives wielded on his policies.

Trump managed to make enemies not just of progressive organizations focused on Israel, but also of some longstanding pillars of the Jewish American organizational world like HIAS, which advocates for refugees, and the American Jewish World Service, a human rights organization active in the developing world.

In addition, he was often criticized by mainstream groups like the Anti Defamation League for his refusal to condemn white supremacists and for his administration’s anti-immigration policies.

Jewish oppositionist forces to Trump have also included the non-Orthodox Jewish movements, especially Reform Judaism – the largest Jewish movement in the United States – and the Reconstructionist movement. Not by coincidence, their leaders were removed from the invitation list to the traditional White House Hanukkah party during the Trump years.

Even AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, was not always comfortable with him. AIPAC’s strategy is based on securing votes in support of Israel on both sides of the aisle; Trump tried during his presidency to turn Israel into a partisan issue, claiming that Democrats were “anti-Israel” and characterizing Jews who support the Democratic party as “disloyal.”

Quite clearly, many of the organizations and movements are feeling a new sense of empowerment now that the final results of Tuesday’s election are in. Many of them also have good and longstanding ties with Biden, who also has a Jewish daughter-in-law and Jewish son-in-law.

In recent years, Biden spoke at both the AIPAC and J Street annual conferences in Washington, and his largest donors within the Jewish community come from both the progressive camp and the more traditional, centrist pro-Israel camp.

By contrast, Orthodox Jews have probably lost the direct line to the president they enjoyed over the past four years. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Trump’s Jewish supporters in the recent election were Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox.

But Trump’s defeat is also a blow for right-wing Jewish organizations – most prominent among these, the Zionist Organization of America – that pushed the president to support Israeli annexation of settlements and other steps that were unthinkable under previous U.S. administrations.

They are certainly reeling. And so too is Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, especially considering that his home state Nevada helped Biden surpass the number of 270 electoral college votes.

Source: Amir Tibon and Judy Maltz – HAARETZ