The Israel Factor's centrist streak

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

December 8, 2010 16:07
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 take a look at the answers our Israel Factor panel produced  in response 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 here represent the average between our panel of experts. It is not a survey of Israelis, and the average here does not represent the opinion of all Israelis (more about The Israel Factor) However, the panel’s record is quite good, and our monthly survey deserves the attention it is getting.

It is good 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 ranks the candidates or the policies in the US political arena and the US government, it doesn’t distort the “Israeli view” because of political biases. You want proof? Take a look at how our panelists rate the following political figures and bodies, on a scale from one to ten:

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 the Israeli 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 is 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 and 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).

Need proof positive that our panel is relatively centrist in nature? Observe the low grades and appreciation it has for the Tea Party movement. As you can see in the table below, the Tea Party is doing noticeably better with the panel this month than it did last month:

                          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 would argue it is not a proof of any such thing, but this I will leave for another time.

We’ve seen that the panel leans toward a relatively centrist verdict when it comes to policies and people. Hence, much better grades have been awarded to Hillary Clinton as opposed to Barak Obama. One might argue that Clinton is merely implementing Obama’s policies, why should she be any better? But there is a simple answer to such  a claim: Perception matters. While Clinton is still perceived by Israelis as a
centrist liberal policy maker 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 “hates Obama’s guts” – as one critic said not long ago? That is a matter I’ll address in a couple of days.

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