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Jewcentricity Watch
The US Is Pro-Israel Because Americans Are

Why is America pro-Israel? Hint: It’s not because of the Jewish lobby. So argues former TAI contributor Yair Rosenberg in a new piece in Tablet. He notes that while AIPAC and its opponents both think the group’s power is responsible for America’s policy toward Israel, the truth is more mundane:

Consider this: Last March, Gallup released a remarkable poll under the headline “Americans’ Sympathies for Israel Match All-Time High.” It revealed that Americans “lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64 percent vs. 12 percent” and went on to note that “Americans’ partiality for Israel has consistently exceeded 60 percent since 2010; however, today’s 64 percent ties the highest Gallup has recorded in a quarter century.” Last week, Gallup found that American favorability toward Israel had reached 72 percent, an approval rating that dwarfed all other Middle Eastern countries. These results accord with decades’ worth of similar polls taken by Pew, which found in 2012 that Americans favored Israel over the Palestinians by a 5-to-1 ratio.

The upshot of these figures is clear: Politicians tilt toward Israel because their voters do.

Read the whole thing. Rosenberg helpfully contrast the U.S. situation to the European one and explains why this theory can explain something the Jewish lobby theory can’t: why AIPAC wins on some issues but loses on others (like Syria or the Pollard case, both of which he discusses). AIPAC is influential insofar as it represents a view that is commonly held in America. Americans’ love of Israel is what makes AIPAC powerful, not the other way around. The Jews don’t run America, and it’s past time for the hysteria over the “Israel lobby” to be put to bed.

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  • qet

    Yet somehow our political, cultural and academic elites are consistently, and vehemently, contrarian on this point. Don’t these poll numbers prove that the science on Israel is settled?

    • free_agent

      Part of what causes the confusion/disconnect/whatever is that one of the largest and solidest bodies of support for Israel in the US is from Evangelical Christians. (Historically, that’s really rather surprising, given that the slur “Christ-killer” is still within living memory.) But the social/cultural/class group of Evangelical Christians is one of the most completely disconnected from (and despised by) the cultural and especially academic elites. If you ask an academic, “Who do you see who is rooting for Israel?”, the answer will be “Jews!” because they don’t even *see* Evangelicals.

  • TheRadicalModerate

    There are two pillars on which official US support for Israel rests: popular support and strategic importance. It’s nice to see that popular support remains high, but Israel’s strategic importance is vastly lower since the end of the Cold War, and even lower since the end of the Iraq War (or at least our involvement in it–the civil war seems to be moving along just fine).

    In the cold war, Israel and Turkey were the only ways we had to reliably project power into the Middle East. Loss of Israel would have run the risk of Russian hegemony over enough of the area to threaten the oil supply. That risk no longer exists. Similarly, Israel was the only game in town for projecting power against Iran in the post-Cold War era. But we now have robust bases in the Persian Gulf, making Israel a bit redundant. (Why we don’t have robust bases in Iraq itself is simply insane after all we went through, but that’s a rant for another time.)

    So the real question is whether popular support alone is enough to keep Israel afloat if/when the crunch comes. I suspect that popular support is kind of shallow, and would diminish rapidly the moment that a price tag–in either dollars or American lives–was attached to it. I’m sure that that has caused more than a few sleepless nights for the Israeli leadership.

    • El Gringo

      You are looking at this grom a geopolitical point of view. I would submit that the majority of Americans who support Israel don’t give two craps about projecting power into the Middle East, the Palestenians, or Iran. They support Israel because that is where Jesus was born and where he died.

    • Jojo Jobxyzone

      I would argue that Israel’s strategic importance is as big now as it has ever been. If you look at the “wider” middle east – all the way from Pakistan to Morocco and from Turkey to Sudan – what you see is strife, violence, corruption, Islamic extremism and very strong anti-Americanism. The only place in this vast sea of mayhem where you find stability, and where people are strongly pro-American is Israel.

      Even some traditionally pro-American regimes – like those of Egypt or Saudi Arabia, are much cooler to America these days. Egypt is flirting with Russia, while the Saudis try to bribe them. (that, BTW is partly why secretary Kerry spends so much time in Israel – he is simply not very welcome in most other middle eastern countries…)

      But with Israel – whatever conflict the US will have around the world, you can be sure, with 100% certainty, that Israel will always be at the American side of the ring.

      That is the core of Israel’s strategic importance to the US.

  • Fred

    Of course we’re sympathetic to the Israelis. They are the only civilized country in the Middle East. And what American can’t identify with a lonely outpost of civilization in a wilderness filled with vicious savages out to destroy it?

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