The Israel Factor: Weakening US-Israel relations?

Netanyahu isn’t the only one to blame. Who contributes most to strengthening US-Israel relations?

By SHMUEL ROSNER
April 3, 2011 15:19
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

ehud barak 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Whatever one might think about the role Defense Minister Ehud Barak is playing in the Israeli government – whatever one might think about the strange bedfellows, Barak and Netanyahu – in The Israel Factor survey Barak seems like an essential ingredient for those interested in keeping the strong Israeli-American ties. Take a look at our statistics page and you’ll see what I mean. We’ve decided that in this survey we will not just ask questions related to American politicians but also to Israeli ones.

Our question: “On scale of 1 (negative) to 10 (positive): What role did the following Israeli leaders play in strengthening US-Israel relations since the 2008 election”?

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The answer might surprise all those whining about the eroding relations between the American and the Israeli administrations. Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t get high marks, but his are still much higher than opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s. Ministers Barak and Dan Meridor, two members of the Netanyahu government, are those seen as the most positive contributors to “strengthening the ties.” Clearly, the panel of experts responding to Israel Factor questions takes the pragmatic view here: Opposition leaders do not contribute much to “ties”, because their role is for the most part limited to complaining and, well, opposing. On the other hand, it might be interesting to note that Shaul Mofaz, also a member of Kadima (and the opposition) is seen by the panel as playing more positive role in strengthening the ties.

The most negative player – and this will come as huge surprise to all people following the news – is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Vast majority of the panelists gave him the meager marks of 1,2 or 3. Maybe somewhat more unexpected is the similar marks given to Minister Moshe Yaalon – formerly an IDF Chief of Staff, and a man with many ties in Washington. Yaalon spend a year in DC as a member of the established The Washington Institute, and finding him in the role of US-Israel relation-crasher might surprise some.


What do we learn from all this? The most important lesson is the one related to Netanyahu. American Jews have already stated their opinion, as I wrote following the last AJC survey of American Jewish opinion – they think the blame for weakening relations isn’t Netanyahu’s: “Jewish Americans essentially think that it is all Obama's fault, and give Netanyahu credit for making an effort and for trying to keep the channels open and the relations good”.

Apparently, our panel also gives Netanyahu much more credit for handling the relations relatively well than what one might expect – that is, if one follows the constant criticism aimed at Netanyahu for “destroying” relations with the US. Obviously, the panel isn’t unanimous in giving Netanyahu high on this subject, but all in all, six of the eight members give him more than a 5. It is also interesting to note that Netanyahu’s marks range from 2 to 9 – which makes him the most polarizing figure on this survey.


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