Israel’s opposition leaders spent the past week trying to prove their relevance.
On Tuesday, both former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni
accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of wrecking Israel’s relations with
the US. Both Livni and Olmert claimed that Netanyahu is taking a knife to
Israel’s most valuable alliance by refusing to bow to US President Barack
Obama’s demand that the government extend the ban on Jewish building in Judea
and Samaria for an additional 60 days.
As Olmert put it, “The United
States, the great superpower, says: ‘You held a building freeze for 10 months,
now extend it by two months...’”
Our World: The rise of the suicide protestsSoros a secret J Street donor since ’08
“Sure we are an independent state,” Olmert
allowed, but then he continued, “But doesn’t reason, a sense of responsibility
and foresight, justify giving two more months?”
Finally, he warned, “We can
refuse the efforts by friendly states, but will we then be able to continue to
conduct a relationship of goodwill with them in the future?”
So as far as Olmert
is concerned, if Israel refuses to bow to the Obama administration’s demand that
Jewish property rights be abrogated for an additional two months, the US will be
justified in ending its support for Israel.
Livni accused Netanyahu of
sacrificing Israel’s relations with the US in order to placate his coalition
Olmert’s and Livni’s assaults on Netanyahu made clear that like
most of their colleagues on the Left, they believe that relations between
countries and relations between governments are the same thing. They recognize
no distinction between ties with autocracies like Egypt and Jordan on the one
hand and ties with democracies like the US on the other. In both cases, as far
as the Left is concerned, alliances or conflicts between nations are determined
by the status of relations between political leaders.
Assuming for a
moment that Livni and Olmert are right about the nature of US-Israel ties, does
it follow that Netanyahu is wrecking those ties by defying Obama? Tuesday’s
State Department press briefing indicates that this is not the case.
Tuesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked, “Do you [i.e.
the administration] recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to
convince the Palestinians to recognize it?
As Rick Richman at Commentary’s blog
noted, Crowley repeatedly tried to evade answering the question. Reporters were
forced to repeat the question six times before Crowley managed to say, “We
recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state,
As for whether or not the administration will try to convince the
Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state, Crowley could not bring himself to
give a simple affirmative answer.
Crowley’s refusal to give straight
answers to straight questions about US recognition of Israel as a Jewish state
shows that Israel has never faced a more unfriendly US administration. After
all, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state means recognizing that the Jewish
people are a nation, and as a nation, the Jews have a right to
self-determination in our national homeland. So recognizing Israel as a Jewish
state is recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
Crowley’s unwillingness to
state flat out that the US recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and expects
Israel’s supposed Palestinian peace partners to do so as well means that the
Obama administration’s basic hostility to Israel is so salient that no amount of
appeasing on any specific issue will alter its position.
What this means
is that if Livni, Olmert and the Left they represent are correct, and the sole
or even major determinant of the strength and quality of US-Israel relations is
views of the US president, then Netanyahu’s actions are
irrelevant. Relations with America are doomed no matter what he
LUCKILY FOR Israel, Livni, Olmert and the Left they represent have
no idea what they are talking about. Contrary to what they would have voters
believe, there is a world of difference between how democracies conduct foreign
relations and how autocracies conduct them.
Whereas in places like Egypt,
Israel’s relations with the country are completely contingent on the identity of
Egypt’s leader, in the US, the president does not determine whether the alliance
between Washington and Jerusalem will remain strong. The American people make
that decision. And the American people have no intention of abandoning
their alliance with Israel.
As a poll released last week makes clear,
Americans are far more likely to ditch leaders they believe are harming the
US-Israel alliance than they are to ditch the alliance. The poll was carried out
from October 3-5 by the non-partisan McLaughlin and Associates survey research
group for the pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel. It is the most
in-depth poll of US sentiment towards Israel in recent memory. The poll broke
down respondents by political affiliation, geographical area, religion, race,
age, education level, sex, income level and ideological outlook.
results were extraordinary.
Some 93.5 percent of Americans believe that
the US should be concerned about Israel’s security. Whereas the Obama
administration is unconvinced that the Palestinians need to recognize Israel as
a Jewish state, 77% of Americans believe that they must do so. Only 6% of
Americans believe the Palestinians shouldn’t recognize Israel.
only do Americans support Israel, they expect their leaders to support Israel as
Some 50.9% of Americans are more likely to vote for a staunchly
pro-Israel candidate, and only 25.2% are less likely to do so. Fifty-three
percent of Americans say they could not vote for an anti- Israel candidate even
if they agreed with the candidate’s positions on most other issues.
for Obama’s treatment of Israel, some 42.7% of Americans believe that the
president’s Middle East policies harm Israel’s security, and only 29.6% believe
that they are improving Israel’s security situation. Some 51.6% of Americans
believe that Obama is less friendly towards Israel than his predecessors have
been. Only 35.4% believe that he is as friendly towards Israel as his
No less noteworthy than the poll’s exposure of the
massive support Israel enjoys from the American people is what it tells us about
the relative strength and weakness of that support along the partisan and
ideological divide. As the Emergency Committee for Israel’s Chairman Bill
Kristol summarized the poll’s findings in The Weekly Standard, 69% of
Republicans are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate, while only 40%
of Democrats are. Furthermore, a mere 15% of Republicans are less likely to vote
for a pro-Israel candidate while 33% of Democrats are less likely to vote for a
candidate who strongly supports Israel.
The Right-Left divide mirrors and
amplifies the partisan divide. A majority of US conservatives are pro-Israel and
only 5% of self-described liberals are pro-Israel.
WITH EVERYONE from
Glenn Beck to George Soros predicting a massive Republican victory in next
month’s midterm congressional elections, it is clear that the disparity between
Obama’s policies and the preferences of the American people is about to
massively constrain Obama’s ability to implement his agenda.
Netanyahu’s perspective, what this means that if he wishes to maintain US
support for Israel, his best bet is to do exactly the opposite of what the Left
proposes. He should continue to defy Obama and explain to the American people
why Israel cannot accede to the administration’s demands.
electoral clock runs down it is becoming increasingly clear that it is Obama and
his supporters, not Israel, that will be forced to pay a price for Obama’s
Middle East policies. In fact, those most strongly identified with Obama’s anti-
Israel positions are already paying a price for their highly unpopular
positions. Take the pro-Palestinian lobby J Street for instance. If Obama’s
policies towards Israel were popular, J Street wouldn’t be concerned about The
Washington Times’ recent exposes about the group.
Those reports revealed
that contrary to repeated claims by J Street’s leaders, the virulently anti-
Israel George Soros is one of its largest financial backers. Moreover, again, in
spite of the group’s denials, J Street’s senior personnel set up meetings with
US lawmakers for notoriously anti-Israel Richard Goldstone. Indeed, J Street’s
co-founder Daniel Levy accompanied Goldstone to his meetings on Capitol
As things stand today, the group that positioned itself as Obama’s
chief defender in the American Jewish community is teetering on the verge of
collapse. J Street’s credibility is in tatters and the administration that
sought to empower J Street is now distancing itself from the group.
Street’s central contention is that American Jews stand to the left of
pro-Israel groups like AIPAC. By staking out a position to the left of AIPAC –
and in line with the White House’s policies – J Street claims it serves as the
true voice of American Jewry. But another recent poll shows that this is
A survey of American Jewish opinion published this week by the
American Jewish Committee shows that J Street’s agenda is rejected by American
Jewry. Whereas 78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, today a bare
majority of 51% approve of his performance in office. As political analyst Larry
Sabato noted, “A 50% positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is,
The unprecedented drop in American Jewish support for
Obama is directly related to his hostility towards Israel. Today a mere 49% of
American Jews support his handling of US-Israel relations, while 45% disapprove.
Tellingly, 62% of American Jews approve of Netanyahu’s handling of US-Israel
relations and only 27% disapprove.
Democrats supported by J Street – that
is Democrats who have supported Obama’s policies towards Israel – are running
scared today. The Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish
Coalition are running ads against members of Congress supported by J Street to
great effect. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate candidate and J Street ally
congressman Joe Sestak is polling far behind Republican nominee Pat
In Chicago, far-left six-term Democratic congresswoman and J
Street sweetheart Jan Schakowsky’s approval ratings have fallen below 50%. Her
unabashedly pro-Israel Republican opponent Joel Pollak is making Schakowsky’s
record on Israel a pillar of his campaign. For his efforts Pollak was the
recipient of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz’s first ever endorsement of a
Likewise, in New Jersey seven-term Democratic congressman
Rush Holt is facing a tough challenge from Republican Scott Sipprelle. Sipprelle
is also pounding his opponent over his ties to the Obama-aligned J
In Florida, Democratic congressman Ron Klein is expected to lose
his reelection bid against Allen West. Although Klein is Jewish and West is
African-American, West has been running to Klein’s right on Israel to great
effect. Klein has also participated in J Street events.
Left’s failure to recognize what is happening in the US today is not surprising.
After all, the Left has ignored the sentiments of the Israeli people for years.
But as the elected leader of the Jewish state, Netanyahu should recognize the
truth. If he wishes to secure Israel’s alliance with the US, he should do what
is best for Israel, not what is best for Israel’s
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