The Israel Factor's centrist streak

The Panel members, like most Israelis, seem to prefer the American policy maker more moderate.

December 8, 2010 15:27
4 minute read.
Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary Clinton 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The panel of experts that the Israel Factor turns to each month is made up of a range of participants who express varying political views. This week we see that while our panelist's may house differing political opinions, the average outcome of their views tends towards a Centrist outlook.

This week we'll take a look at the table and at the answers our Israel Factor panel had produced to this simple request: “From 1 (bad for Israel) to 10 (good for Israel): Generally speaking, please rate the following people and institutions.”
The answers we present represent the average that this panel of experts produces. It is not a survey of Israelis, and the average we post here doesn’t mean that all people think this way. However, the panel’s record is quite good, and our monthly survey deserves the attention it is getting. It is good because for many reasons, one of them being its inclusiveness of experts with different views. It is not a panel with “right wing” or “left wing” tendencies – no more than the tendencies of the “average” Israelis. Thus, when the panel is ranking the candidates or the policies of the US political arena and the US government, it doesn’t distort the “Israeli view” because of political biases. You want proof? Here’s one. The table I’ve mentioned at the top of this post. Take a look:

Barack Obama    5.25
Hillary Clinton    6.75
The Tea Party movement    3.87
AIPAC    7.87
J Street    4.75
The Republican Jewish Coalition    6.62
The National Jewish Democratic Council    6.5
The Emergency Committee on Israel    5.43

What do we see here?

We see a panel expressing Israeli relative uneasiness with the two groups that make Israel a “political issue” (J Street and ECI) – but is happy to get the unbiased support of a bipartisan group (AIPAC – I know some critics think AIPAC is partial. Obviously, the panel doesn’t buy it). What’s more: When I look at specific numbers each panelist attached to the groups mentioned above, the trend becomes even more vivid. The satisfaction with AIPAC is almost across the board, with all panelists but one giving it more than seven. Dissatisfaction with the two other groups is also quite obvious, as panelists’ votes are being divided by ideological beliefs.

As you can see, the Jewish organizations of the Republican and the Democratic parties were ranked with very similar outcome (6.5, 6.62). Three panelists gave the RJC somewhat better marks – two gave the NJDC somewhat better marks – three gave the two organizations the exact same marks. The widest gap for any of the panelists between RJC and NJDC was of two points (7-5, 5-3). 

One last proof our panel is relatively centrist in nature: the low grades and appreciation it has for the Tea Party movement. As you can see in this table, the Tea Party is doing noticeably better with the panel this month than it did last month (other changes seem insignificant):

                          Nov-10    Dec-10    Change
Barack Obama    5              5.25           0.25
Hillary Clinton    6.43          6.75           0.32
The Tea Party     2.6           3.87           1.27

However, even this month the panel considers the Tea Party movement as net-negative when it comes to possible impact on Israel’s well being. Rejecting J Street from the left and the Tea Party from the right is the panel’s way of saying: From an Israeli standpoint, a centrist America is the way to go. The panel wants Israel to remain a bipartisan issue, and for American policies to be moderately crafted (yes, George W. Bush was very popular in Israel, which to some people might be proof that Israelis like the radically hawkish. I’d argue it is not a proof of any such thing, but this needs more explaining - some other time).

To conclude: We’ve said the panel produces for relatively centrist verdicts on policies and people. Hence, the much better grades Hillary Clinton is getting the ones the panel gives Barak Obama. And, again, one might argue: Clinton is merely implementing Obama’s policies, why is she any better? But there’s simple answer to such claim: Perception matters. And while Clinton is still perceived by Israelis as a policy maker with a centrist liberal with moderately hawkish views on foreign affairs – Obama, rightly or wrongly, is seen as the ultra liberal policy maker. Simply put, the panel, like most Israelis, seems to prefer the American policy maker more moderate. Does this mean that the Israeli public really “hate Obama’s guts” – as one guy said not long ago? That is a matter I’ll address in a couple of days.

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