Why Israel is so worried about US opinion of the country - opinion

While the United States makes policy regardless of any other country's opinion, Israel is very concerned about its image in the US.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chat during a meeting at the White House, last year. A healthy balance between caring and obsession must be found when it comes to Israeli concern over American support, says the writer. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chat during a meeting at the White House, last year. A healthy balance between caring and obsession must be found when it comes to Israeli concern over American support, says the writer.

One of a parent’s biggest challenges is ingraining in their children the value of not worrying about what other people think of them and encouraging them to do the right thing. Children feel peer pressure more than adults and when children face the judgment of other people it isn’t easy for them to act correctly.

A child must be courageous to stand up to their friends’ pressure to do the wrong thing. Standing up to this pressure as an adult is much easier, but it still presents a challenge.

Nations also face pressure from other nations and their leaders must withstand that pressure and judgment to do the right thing. Like children facing social consequences for standing up to the bullies in their classroom, nations face economic and military consequences for standing against international pressure. Nations with moral fortitude stand up to pressure from the global community and make the right policy decisions.

Israel isn’t immune to international pressures and it seems to be overly sensitive to those pressures. Israelis and their advocates constantly worry about the opinions of American college students.

“What we’re seeing on campuses across the country is a kind of virulent anti-Zionism that purports to be about Palestinian rights but in reality results in the marginalization and the demonization of all Jewish students.”

Head of ADL Jonathan Greenblatt

These same people are worried about a perceived drop in support for Israel among American adults and are constantly worried about American support for Israel in the US Congress.

 United States Library of Congress (credit: Wikimedia Commons) United States Library of Congress (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli concern for American’s opinions about Israel is a curious phenomenon. One never reads about Americans concerned over Israelis’ opinions about America and its policies. Former president Barak Obama’s approval ratings in Israel where dismal, yet his low ratings didn’t seem to factor into his decisions about American policy in general and especially not towards Israel.

Not only does America rarely consider Israeli opinion, but it also rarely takes world opinion into consideration when making policy decisions. What can explain Israeli and Israel advocates’ obsession with American opinion of Israel?

Why does Israel care what America thinks?

The obvious explanation for why Israel and its advocates put so much emphasis on American opinion is because of the significant amount of American diplomatic and military aid Israel receives from America. The fear is that if American support dips below some imaginary line, Israel will lose American aid.

The fear over college students’ opinions is that today’s American college students are tomorrow’s American leaders and if they don’t appreciate the US-Israel relationship as college students, they won’t support it as America’s elected leaders when they grow up.

AMERICA GIVES military and diplomatic aid to Israel not because they like Israel (or because of Jewish money, as Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted) but because it’s in America’s best interest for America to have a strong alliance with Israel. Many people become cynical when discussing the America-Israel relationship and assume congresspeople don’t really put America’s interests first; however, especially when it comes to American foreign policy, Congress prioritizes America’s interests when deciding on supporting allies.

A strong America-Israel relationship has and will always be in America’s best interests. Israel has become a dominant world player on many global stages. Its military innovation is world famous, with creations that can bring down hundreds of enemy rockets and hunt terrorist masterminds hidden in a labyrinth of tunnels.

Israel is also a technological hive, the Start-Up Nation second only to America’s Silicon Valley. Israel is a strategic ally that many consider America’s best friend and America’s guiding light in a dark neighborhood of tyranny, dictatorships and oppression.

Israel also shares with America the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a moral country, known as having the most moral army in the world. Americans are well-known for coming to Israel and leaving thinking that Israelis are just like them. They appreciate Israel’s role as the only true democracy in the Middle East. American support of Israel is guaranteed because of Israel’s role as an American strategic partner and the values the two nations share.

While Israel has little to fear from a drop in American support, the obsession over American support detracts and weakens Israel’s sovereignty. Strong nations do what is in their best interests and don’t fear other nations’ concerns.

American aid is important to Israel, but Israel is no longer a weak and small country dependent on American aid. It would take Israel years to recover from a loss of American aid – which, as we said, isn’t a concern. Israel is a developed and strong country that doesn’t need to hold back from adopting policies in its best interests out of fear of American public opinion.

No sensible advocate of Israeli strength would argue for ignoring America’s leaders, but a healthy balance between caring and obsession must be found when it comes to Israeli concern over American support. Israel must take actions and policies it thinks is right and not be concerned with American or other people’s perceptions.

Israel has reached a point in its history and destiny when it can take policy steps it feared in its past. Israelis and their advocates should no longer fret over what opinion polls seem to rate Israeli support on American college campuses and instead, focus on progress on the ground in Israel.

The writer is a senior educator at Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Zionist Education Initiative. He is the author of three books and teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.