The Obama-American public Israeli disconnect

A recent Gallop poll shows that Israel maintains its good standing with the US public, despite Obama’s ‘even-handed’ approach toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, his attempts to force Israel into sweeping concessions, and in defiance of the US media and academia.

February 27, 2010 17:56
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama.

Obama serious 311. (photo credit: AP)


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The findings of the February 19, 2010 Gallup poll put President Barack Obama at odds with the US public, when it comes to attitudes toward the Jewish state, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arabs, Muslims and Islamic terrorism.

For example, Israel maintains its traditional spot among the five most favored nations by 67 percent of the US public, despite Obama’s  “even-handed” approach toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, in spite of his attempts to force Israel into sweeping concessions, and in defiance of the US “elite” media and academia.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority is ranked – along with Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – at the bottom of the list, favored by only 20% of the US public.

According to an August 10, 2009 Rasmussen poll, Israel is ranked as the third most favorable ally (70%), preceded only by Canada and Britain. The low regard toward Egypt (39%) and Saudi Arabia (23%) demonstrates that Americans remain skeptical – at least since 9/11 – of Arabs and Muslims, even as these countries are portrayed by the media and the administration as supposedly moderate and pro-American.

Moreover, only 21% of adult Americans expect that the US relationship with the Muslim world will improve in a year, while 25% expect that it will get worse.

APPARENTLY, US public attitude towards Arabs and Muslims has hardly been impacted by Obama’s highly-publicized outreach to Muslims, as demonstrated by his speeches at Turkey’s National Assembly in April (“…the Islamic faith has done so much to shape the world, including my own country…”), at Cairo University in June (“Islam has always been a part of America’s story…”) and at the UN General assembly in September (“America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others…”).

Historically, most Americans have been suspicious of Arabs and Islam, while identifying with Judeo-Christian values, Judaism and the Jewish state, as documented by a June 3, 2009 Gallup poll. By an overwhelming 80%:13% ratio, Americans believe that Muslims are hostile toward America. They subscribe to Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” much more that Obama’s statement, in Cairo: “America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.”

Apparently, Obama’s efforts have failed to uproot the legacy of the Islamic threat since the early 19th century war against Muslim pirates, through the 1983 detonation of the US embassy and the truck bombing of the Marine headquarters in Beirut, the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 9/11, the November 2009 Ft. Hood, Texas massacre and the Muslim terrorist attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

Since, at least 9/11, most Americans have held the Palestinian Authority in disfavor, 15% support and 73% opposed, according to a March 3, 2009 Gallup poll. A definite connection has been established between the Palestinian Authority and terrorism, pro-Saddam Hussein and Bin-Laden sentiments and anti-US sentiments. In contrast, support of Israel has remained steady at 63% with only 23% opposing.

Israel’s good standing has recently been reflected on Capitol Hill. For instance, 344 House Representatives (79%) signed a November 4, 2009 letter, supporting Israel and condemning the Goldstone Report. On the other hand, only 54 House Representatives (12%) signed a January 27, 2010 letter, criticizing Israel and supporting Hamas.

Unlike dictatorships, which structure the results of public opinion polls, democracies are shaped, to a large extent, by public opinion. Public opinion is especially critical in the US democracy, which features the constituent as its centerpiece. Therefore, US legislators are more attentive to voters than are other Western legislators.

They take seriously the electoral battle cry: “We shall remember in November!” Hence, the sustained support of the Jewish state on Capitol Hill, which reflects the will of the American people, in addition to the role played by shared values, mutual threats and joint interests in shaping the unique covenant between the US, the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

The writer is executive director of Second Thought, which researches national security aspects of Judea and Samaria.

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