Israel’s Image in the US Becomes More Complicated
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
Everyone knows about Israel’s close relationship with the United States. It is enough to observe that in all the votes in the UN General Assembly, no matter how committed it is to Washington, Israel seconds the superpower no matter how far removed they both are from the general consensus.
That’s why the phenomenon is so interesting that it was reflected in a report by Ramzy Baroud, a writer and journalist specializing in Middle Eastern issues, in a work published in the Palestine Chronicle entitled “The Boomerang Effect”.
Baroud points out that, despite the massive sums invested by Israel to maintain public opinion in its favor in the U. S., there are currently unmistakable trends in the polls that show a change. The dynamics of support for Israel by the average American citizen is changing, even among those who are Jewish, which is of great concern to the Israeli government.
Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Israel’s affinity with the EEAU grew to unprecedented levels. The attacks, media discourse and subsequent wars evoked the support of many evangelical Protestant Christians. They see the widening of the conflict in the Middle East as part of the long-awaited biblical prophecy that, according to them, was fulfilled with the establishment of the State of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government exploited every opportunity it had to maximize support for the goals deemed important by the right. Meanwhile, to the ultra-right and religious parties in Israel, Netanyahu’s vain and confrontational style has alienated the support of many Democrats. Netanyahu’s policies of strengthening the occupation, blocking any peace efforts and expanding illegal Jewish settlements also began to undermine the support that Israel has always taken for granted from American Jews.
But in January 2018, statistics among American Jews have plummeted even further.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a recent study by the Brand Israel Group “support for Israel among Jewish students in the US fell by 32% between 2010 and 2016.
The perception that Jewish Americans constitute an isolated group that supports Israel regardless of their political tendencies is no longer sustained. Jewish communities in the United States are changing, as is the entire nation.
The number of those who identified themselves as “liberal” in the US has risen from 27% to 41% between 2000 and 2015.
This change has been accompanied by growing sympathy for the Palestinians, as indicated by a May 2016 Pew survey. More liberal Democrats said they were more sympathetic to the Palestinians (40%) than to Israel (33%). Analysts then concluded that disenchantment with Israel stemmed from differences between Netanyahu and Barack Obama over issues such as Israel’s illegal settlement expansion and the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The trend continued, because, when an issue becomes part of partisan politics, it becomes polarized, explains Baraud. For decades, Israel had been considered the only issue on which all Americans agreed, but this is no longer the case and Netanyahu has played an important role in this change.
The tendency among liberal Democrats was counterbalanced by another tendency among Republicans who adopted the cause of Israel as their own. While Christian evangelicals were able to make unconditional support for Israel an indispensable requirement for any candidate seeking their support, the Israeli cause has ceased to be an issue demanded by Democrats.
A Pew survey indicates that “the Democratic liberals who support Palestinians more than Israel have almost doubled since 2014 (from 21% to 40%) and are higher than at any other time since 2001. Of all Democrats, only 33% sympathized with Israel, according to the 2017 Pew poll.
This was the “first time in history” that has divided “almost half the number of those who support Israel and those who support the Palestinians.”
And, just as support for the Palestinians grew among Democrats, so did the gap between the two major parties. According to the most recent Pew 2018 poll, while Republican support for Israel remains high, a troubled 79% of Democrats’ support for Israel sank to just 27%.
Certainly, Netanyahu has embedded Israel in the heart of polarized US policy. Although he has achieved short-term successes (such as US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city) it has damaged the American consensus on Israel “and this raises hopes,” Baraud concludes.
March 1 st, 2018.