For months, even years, the media have been feeding us gloomy reports about how American Jews are becoming disenchanted with Israel, alleging that indifference and even hostility were rampant.
Misnamed “pro-peace, pro- Israel” organizations like J Street claimed to have achieved dramatic inroads among young people allegedly alienated by “right-wing Israeli policies” or the “hawkish” pro-Israel lobby. This theme has been repeated so frequently that it became ingrained in the public consciousness.
The findings of two recent opinion polls conclusively demonstrate that these assertions are unfounded.
The American Jewish Committee survey just released clearly reveals that American Jews remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel (69 percent stating that they felt close to it).
Amazingly, the majority (62%) even support the left’s bogeyman, “right-wing” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – a 5% increase since the last poll taken in March. Support for Netanyahu would have been even higher had it not been for opposition from some hard-line Orthodox respondents who presumably felt that he was too accommodating toward US President Barack Obama.
Ironically, American Jewish approval of Netanyahu today is higher than that of Obama, whose approval rating on the issue of US-Israel relations has sunk to as low as 49% with 45% disapproving of his performance. The rapid plummet of Jewish support for Obama – 78% of whom voted for him during the elections – is indicated by his dramatic decline since the March AJC poll which then showed a 55% approval rating and 37% disapproving.
This confirms that many American Jews were shocked with the public disagreements and shameful manner in which Obama treated Israel and now regret having voted for him. Nor were they impressed with his superficial charm offensive toward Israel which failed to overcome their suspicion that he intends to continue acting in a biased manner and applying double standards toward Israel. In contrast to Kadima, American Jews blame Obama, not Netanyahu, for the erosion of US-Israel relations.
That only 51% support Obama’s reelection is unprecedentedly low for Jews who traditionally have overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party. Indeed it represents a sea change with as many as 33% of American Jews responding that the nation would be better off with a Republican dominated Congress.
THERE ARE of course caveats to this. The anti-Obama mood of the Jewish community also reflects the broad American resentment of his handling of other issues, especially the administration’s failure to restore the economy.
American Jewry’s long-standing commitment to liberalism still inhibits most of them from severing their political umbilical cord with the Democratic Party. Thus, while in reply to one question they condemn Obama’s approach toward Israel, in another response 49% still approve of his administration’s handling of US-Israel relations, while 45% disapprove.
Moreover, despite clearly resenting most of his policies, 51% still gave him an overall positive rating.
The confusion is exemplified by the fact that a majority of Jews (52%) even support the controversial Arizona law to curb illegal immigration, with only 46% opposing it.
However, it is indisputable that there has been dramatic erosion in Jewish support for Obama and his administration. David Harris, the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (not to be confused with David Harris of the AJC), conceded that most Jewish voters are traditionally inclined towards the Democratic Party, but “need to be comfortable that their candidates support Israel” before “they move on to other issues.”
Another falsehood exposed is the repeated assertion by the media and left-wing academics that Jews at the grassroots level are far more dovish than their allegedly hawkish leaders.
The survey indicates that the reverse applies.
The AJC survey reports that 95% of American Jews believe that the Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; 76% believe that the goal of the Arabs is the destruction of Israel rather than return of the occupied territories; 60% say Israel should not agree to any division of Jerusalem and must retain it as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction, while only 35% are in favor of ceding sections of the city to the Palestinians; and 70% support Israeli military action against its adversaries.
An even more extraordinary statistic is that no less than 45% actually oppose the creation of any Palestinian state, with only 48% supporting it. No less revealing is that whilst 62% favor the dismantling of some settlements, 37% totally oppose the disassembling of any settlement.
ANOTHER POLL by McLaughlin and Associates also refutes the allegation that that the American public is turning against Israel. It reveals that as many as 93% of those polled felt that the US should be concerned with the security of Israel, a tribute to the decency of the American people.
Over half said that their elected representatives should be pro-Israel and that they would not vote for a candidate who was anti-Israel, even if they agreed with other policies he was promoting.
However, the growing divide in attitudes toward Israel between the Democrats and the Republicans is disconcerting because it threatens to undermine the long-term bipartisan approach which traditionally prevailed. Whereas 40% of Democratic voters are likely to support a pro-Israel candidate, as many as 33% are less likely. In contrast, close to 70% of Republicans are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate with only 15% less inclined to do so. This reflects alarming trends with conservatives strengthening their support while liberals are drifting away from Israel.
But despite the doomsayers and contrary to the disinformation disseminated by the Left, the survey confirms that Americans remain overall strongly supportive of Israel. The survey also suggests that as many as 46% of American Jews would even consider voting against Obama.
This demonstrates the absurdity of the claims by J Street and other far left-wing groups that they represent a sizable proportion of the Jewish community. In fact, it suggests that those American Jewish leaders who lacked the courage or were loath to condemn Obama’s one-sided policies, failed to represent the views of their constituency.
But let us not be under any illusions.
The road ahead will be difficult.
The Obama administration appears determined to pursue a policy of pressuring Israel to revert to the 1949 armistice lines and demanding further concessions without reciprocity. If it is willing to even condemn us now for construction in the exclusively Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, we should grit ourselves for what will come after November 2.
Perhaps in the light of these polls, more American Jewish leaders will be encouraged to follow the example of ADL leader Abe Foxman, who was the first of only a handful of Jewish leaders with the courage to speak out against the bullying tactics and double standards being applied by the Obama administration.
The role of Jewish leadership after the congressional elections may be crucial should Obama, as many predict, be inclined to intensify his onesided pressures.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post