Skip To Content
Israel News

For Israelis, President Donald Trump Is Great Unknown — for Better or Worse

Oleg Frolov, a 41-year-old bottle collector in Tel Aviv, said he didn’t know much about Donald Trump or where he stands on Israel. And that’s exactly why he was happy about Republican’s shocking upset victory over Hillary Clinton, whom he detests.

“I don’t know Trump at all,” he said, stopping underneath an overpass near Tel Aviv mall Dizengoff Center with two plastic bags full of crumpled cans. “Because of that, I think he’s better.”

Israelis woke up to Donald Trump as the 45th American president, but they were largely unsure of what Trump’s stunning ascent to the presidency meant for their nation and its historic alliance with the United States.

Though many Israelis opposed Clinton’s vision of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, they still preferred her to Trump, an utter unknown.

Others saw in Trump’s complete lack of experience and vision in the Middle East a blank slate on which to project their hopes for a more aggressively Zionist U.S. presidency.

Yasmin Keren, 70, was sitting on a bench in central Tel Aviv with her Pekingese “Peki” and Chihauhau “Smokey” the morning after the U.S. election. She called Trump a “serious man,” in contrast to Clinton, who was all talk.

She also judged Clinton for the actions of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who brokered the failed 1993 peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians. “He did nothing for Israel,” she said.

Trump, on the other hand, could go either way — and that’s why she wanted to give him a chance.

“I don’t know if he loves Israel,” she said. “He says he does but we don’t know.”

Liberal Israelis were fretting about the elections results as they walked on Tel Aviv’s tony Dizengoff Street.

Larissa Goldenstein, a 74-year-old retired special education teacher, said that that she was “very afraid” of Trump.

Yael Goldstein, a 31-year-old manager of a yoga studio, said that she learned of Trump’s closing victory at 6:00 in the morning when she woke up to feed her 1.5 year old. She was horrified, calling Trump’s denigration of women and minorities “not what America represents.”

But she wasn’t surprised at Trump’s sweeping win.

“Americans are against the establishment,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what Trump says.”

Goldstein, who votes for the far left Meretz party, said that Clinton was “corrupt,” but better than Trump.

“A lot of people said he will be good for Israel, but I don’t think so,” she said. “He’ll do like Bibi [Netanyahu],” she said, predicting that Trump would be in support of Israel building Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

She said that the news reminded her of Israel’s 2015 election, when pollsters predicted that Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog could topple sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Netanyahu won handily.

Her left-leaning friends kept tabs on the U.S. election on their group on WhatsApp, the smart phone messaging service. Two Israeli friends living in Boston joked that if Trump won, they would move back to Israel.

Now, they’ll have to decide.

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at [email protected] or on Twitter @naomizeveloff

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.