Obama and the US-Israel alliance

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Israel’s opposition leaders spent the past week trying to prove their relevance. On Tuesday, both former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of wrecking Israel’s relations with the US. Both Livni and Olmert claimed that Netanyahu is taking a knife to Israel’s most valuable alliance by refusing to bow to US President Barack Obama’s demand that the government extend the ban on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria for an additional 60 days.


As Olmert put it, “The United States, the great superpower, says: ‘You held a building freeze for 10 months, now extend it by two months…'” 


“Sure we are an independent state,” Olmert allowed, but then he continued, “But doesn’t reason, a sense of responsibility and foresight, justify giving two more months?” 


Finally, he warned, “We can refuse the efforts by friendly states, but will we then be able to continue to conduct a relationship of goodwill with them in the future?” 


So as far as Olmert is concerned, if Israel refuses to bow to the Obama administration’s demand that Jewish property rights be abrogated for an additional two months, the US will be justified in ending its support for Israel.


Livni accused Netanyahu of sacrificing Israel’s relations with the US in order to placate his coalition partners.


Olmert’s and Livni’s assaults on Netanyahu made clear that like most of their colleagues on the Left, they believe that relations between countries and relations between governments are the same thing. They recognize no distinction between ties with autocracies like Egypt and Jordan on the one hand and ties with democracies like the US on the other. In both cases, as far as the Left is concerned, alliances or conflicts between nations are determined by the status of relations between political leaders.


Assuming for a moment that Livni and Olmert are right about the nature of US-Israel ties, does it follow that Netanyahu is wrecking those ties by defying Obama? Tuesday’s State Department press briefing indicates that this is not the case.


On Tuesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked, “Do you [i.e. the administration] recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it? 


As Rick Richman at Commentary’s blog noted, Crowley repeatedly tried to evade answering the question. Reporters were forced to repeat the question six times before Crowley managed to say, “We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.”


As for whether or not the administration will try to convince the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state, Crowley could not bring himself to give a simple affirmative answer.


Crowley’s refusal to give straight answers to straight questions about US recognition of Israel as a Jewish state shows that Israel has never faced a more unfriendly US administration. After all, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state means recognizing that the Jewish people are a nation, and as a nation, the Jews have a right to self-determination in our national homeland. So recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is recognizing Israel’s right to exist.


Crowley’s unwillingness to state flat out that the US recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and expects Israel’s supposed Palestinian peace partners to do so as well means that the Obama administration’s basic hostility to Israel is so salient that no amount of appeasing on any specific issue will alter its position.


What this means is that if Livni, Olmert and the Left they represent are correct, and the sole or even major determinant of the strength and quality of US-Israel relations is views of the US president, then Netanyahu’s actions are irrelevant. Relations with America are doomed no matter what he does.


LUCKILY FOR Israel, Livni, Olmert and the Left they represent have no idea what they are talking about. Contrary to what they would have voters believe, there is a world of difference between how democracies conduct foreign relations and how autocracies conduct them.


Whereas in places like Egypt, Israel’s relations with the country are completely contingent on the identity of Egypt’s leader, in the US, the president does not determine whether the alliance between Washington and Jerusalem will remain strong. The American people make that decision. And the American people have no intention of abandoning their alliance with Israel.


As a poll released last week makes clear, Americans are far more likely to ditch leaders they believe are harming the US-Israel alliance than they are to ditch the alliance. The poll was carried out from October 3-5 by the non-partisan McLaughlin and Associates survey research group for the pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel. It is the most in-depth poll of US sentiment towards Israel in recent memory. The poll broke down respondents by political affiliation, geographical area, religion, race, age, education level, sex, income level and ideological outlook.


The results were extraordinary.


Some 93.5 percent of Americans believe that the US should be concerned about Israel’s security. Whereas the Obama administration is unconvinced that the Palestinians need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, 77% of Americans believe that they must do so. Only 6% of Americans believe the Palestinians shouldn’t recognize Israel.


And not only do Americans support Israel, they expect their leaders to support Israel as well.


Some 50.9% of Americans are more likely to vote for a staunchly pro-Israel candidate, and only 25.2% are less likely to do so. Fifty-three percent of Americans say they could not vote for an anti- Israel candidate even if they agreed with the candidate’s positions on most other issues.


As for Obama’s treatment of Israel, some 42.7% of Americans believe that the president’s Middle East policies harm Israel’s security, and only 29.6% believe that they are improving Israel’s security situation. Some 51.6% of Americans believe that Obama is less friendly towards Israel than his predecessors have been. Only 35.4% believe that he is as friendly towards Israel as his predecessors were.


No less noteworthy than the poll’s exposure of the massive support Israel enjoys from the American people is what it tells us about the relative strength and weakness of that support along the partisan and ideological divide. As the Emergency Committee for Israel’s Chairman Bill Kristol summarized the poll’s findings in The Weekly Standard, 69% of Republicans are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate, while only 40% of Democrats are. Furthermore, a mere 15% of Republicans are less likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate while 33% of Democrats are less likely to vote for a candidate who strongly supports Israel.


The Right-Left divide mirrors and amplifies the partisan divide. A majority of US conservatives are pro-Israel and only 5% of self-described liberals are pro-Israel.


WITH EVERYONE from Glenn Beck to George Soros predicting a massive Republican victory in next month’s midterm congressional elections, it is clear that the disparity between Obama’s policies and the preferences of the American people is about to massively const
rain Obama’s ability to implement his agenda.


From Netanyahu’s perspective, what this means that if he wishes to maintain US support for Israel, his best bet is to do exactly the opposite of what the Left proposes. He should continue to defy Obama and explain to the American people why Israel cannot accede to the administration’s demands.


As the electoral clock runs down it is becoming increasingly clear that it is Obama and his supporters, not Israel, that will be forced to pay a price for Obama’s Middle East policies. In fact, those most strongly identified with Obama’s anti- Israel positions are already paying a price for their highly unpopular positions. Take the pro-Palestinian lobby J Street for instance. If Obama’s policies towards Israel were popular, J Street wouldn’t be concerned about The Washington Times‘ recent exposes about the group.


Those reports revealed that contrary to repeated claims by J Street’s leaders, the virulently anti-Israel George Soros is one of its largest financial backers. Moreover, again, in spite of the group’s denials, J Street’s senior personnel set up meetings with US lawmakers for notoriously anti-Israel Richard Goldstone. Indeed, J Street’s co-founder Daniel Levy accompanied Goldstone to his meetings on Capitol Hill.


As things stand today, the group that positioned itself as Obama’s chief defender in the American Jewish community is teetering on the verge of collapse. J Street’s credibility is in tatters and the administration that sought to empower J Street is now distancing itself from the group.


J Street’s central contention is that American Jews stand to the left of pro-Israel groups like AIPAC. By staking out a position to the left of AIPAC – and in line with the White House’s policies – J Street claims it serves as the true voice of American Jewry. But another recent poll shows that this is untrue.


A survey of American Jewish opinion published this week by the American Jewish Committee shows that J Street’s agenda is rejected by American Jewry. Whereas 78% of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, today a bare majority of 51% approve of his performance in office. As political analyst Larry Sabato noted, “A 50% positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”


The unprecedented drop in American Jewish support for Obama is directly related to his hostility towards Israel. Today a mere 49% of American Jews support his handling of US-Israel relations, while 45% disapprove. Tellingly, 62% of American Jews approve of Netanyahu’s handling of US-Israel relations and only 27% disapprove.


Democrats supported by J Street – that is Democrats who have supported Obama’s policies towards Israel – are running scared today. The Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition are running ads against members of Congress supported by J Street to great effect. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate candidate and J Street ally congressman Joe Sestak is polling far behind Republican nominee Pat Toomey.


In Chicago, far-left six-term Democratic congresswoman and J Street sweetheart Jan Schakowsky’s approval ratings have fallen below 50%. Her unabashedly pro-Israel Republican opponent Joel Pollak is making Schakowsky’s record on Israel a pillar of his campaign. For his efforts Pollak was the recipient of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz’s first ever endorsement of a Republican.


Likewise, in New Jersey seven-term Democratic congressman Rush Holt is facing a tough challenge from Republican Scott Sipprelle. Sipprelle is also pounding his opponent over his ties to the Obama-aligned J Street.


In Florida, Democratic congressman Ron Klein is expected to lose his reelection bid against Allen West. Although Klein is Jewish and West is African-American, West has been running to Klein’s right on Israel to great effect. Klein has also participated in J Street events.


The Israeli Left’s failure to recognize what is happening in the US today is not surprising. After all, the Left has ignored the sentiments of the Israeli people for years. But as the elected leader of the Jewish state, Netanyahu should recognize the truth. If he wishes to secure Israel’s alliance with the US, he should do what is best for Israel, not what is best for Israel’s Left.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 
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  • anonymous 10/15/2010 at 18:29

    The American ruling class both left (vide Jimmuh Carter) and right (vide James Baker) leaning has not been prevented by public opinion from repeatedly demanding Israel accept an armistace after every victory she has won on the battlefield and from making territorial and other concessions to the Arabs with no recompensation.

  • Anonymous 10/16/2010 at 8:00

    ‘he should do what is best for Israel, not what is best for Israel’s Left’
    If we American’s still had a representative government in Washington instead of being under the control of filthy,corrupt special interest’s with deep pockets, polls would merit watching.
    The truth is big interests and big money have corrupted the system and the voters are the bit actors in the staged play.
    It fools the easily fooled masses.
    Why do you and everyone else ignore that the Republican party platform calls for the carving up of Israel and division of Jerusalem just like the Democrat party platform ?
    The big oil money of the Saudi’s has more weight in Washington and the media than does AIPAC (which accomplishes nothing but hyped empty banquets, not even the release of Jonathan Pollard with all it’s money and political clout) or the will of the pro Israel American voter.
    If Christian supporters of Israel in America had any political weight Oslo and the Road Map would have been buried long ago.
    The truth is that the politicians of both parties are following an anti-Israel agenda long ago laid out by the U.S. elite (forces of darkness) who created the United Nation which has only Israel in it’s bulls eye target.
    The smoke and mirrors easily cloud the reality and feed the illusion that America is Israel’s ticket to survival when it is really her darling stealth executioner.
    Nothing really changes for the better with America’s Israel policy when a Republican is elected as President as we saw with the great fraud Bush only moved Clinton’s 2 state solution against Israel forward instead of killing it.
    The latest puppet of the Globalists Obama only moves the agenda fast forward like the other puppets did.
    The easily conned voters trust in devious power hungry liars who tell them what they want to hear as we keep seeing time and again.
    Netanyahu is incapable of doing what is best for Israel because he is weak and easily under the thumb of the Globalists (UN,EU,US) who fund the Israeli left and their agenda is to carve up Israel and feed it to the sons of Ishmael as a gift.

  • Ron Grandinetti 10/16/2010 at 8:12

    Caroline, your right on.
    People have to understand the difference between countries and government. Yes a majority of Americans support Israel, are concerned for her security and recognize Israel as a Jewish Nation.
    Unfortunately the US government officials don’t always reflect the attitude of the people they represent.
    November 2nd is the date most Americans have marked their calendar to take out the trash (along with the anti-Semites),
    Yes the PM should continue to do what is best for Israel and not what Barack Hussein Obama wants. Remember he embraces Islam and is not a friend of Israel.
    Israel should continue to build throughout all of Jerusalem and Israel, the Holy Land belongs to the Jews.
    Yes God Bless America and G-d Bless Israel.

  • naomir 10/16/2010 at 21:57

    Caroline, there is no question that support for Israel by the American public is probably better than ever due in part to Obama’s anti Israel pro Arab views. I cannot improve on what you have written and you summed it up excellently. “Netanyahu should recognize the truth. If he wishes to secure Israel’s alliance with the US, he should do what is best for Israel, not what is best for Israel’s Left.” May G-d bless us and watch over us.

  • Larry Snider 10/17/2010 at 1:09

    You know Caroline, its easy to kick a dog when it’s down. J Street has managed to raise alot of money, (including that of George Soros), and a great deal of attention in a relatively short time by connecting many left leaning American Jews and some of the organizations that have tried individually to represent an alternative vision of what is really in Israel’s own interest. I believe in Israel’s security and find Ahmadinejad and the country he represents along with its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza as a huge and possibly existential threat to the future of Israel. But I believe as well that the Israeli occupation and the continuing decimation of Palestinian life in the West Bank and even Gaza is a recipe for the death of Israelis and Palestinians alike in unprecedented numbers. A peace agreement is essential even if President Obama’s efforts to date to reach out to moderate Muslims and to try to push forward direct negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas have achieved less than stellar results.

  • ripalinsky 10/17/2010 at 1:46

    At least Israel’s PM is functioning, note the situation in the U.S. Whitehouse….
    Rahm Emanuel’s firing came after he and Mrs. Obama had a major argument, and the First Lady told Emanuel he had to go “for a reason.” Mrs. Obama reportedly flatly told Emanuel he was “no longer welcome at the White House.” The “Emanuel-running-for-Chicago-mayor” story was mere window dressing to cover up the meltdown in the White House leadership. The many top-level White House resignations, just before a critical mid-term election, are unprecedented.
    Mrs. Obama and, to a lesser extent, Valerie Jarrett, have tried to smooth things over between people like Vice President Biden and chief of staff Pete Rouse on one hand and President Obama, who is detached from his duties, and, according to the former White House staffer who is talking to Ulsterman, extremely lazy, only interested in watching ESPN and discussing sports, and playing golf, and doing what he is most comfortable at: campaigning. Obama clearly wants to run again for president, citing the “adoring crowds” who greet him on the political stump. Mrs. Obama has reportedly told the president that “there are no more adoring crowds.”
    Last March, the annual report on the president’s health contained a reference to drinking. Obama’s doctor urged him to ”Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise program, healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake. . .” We have been told by informed sources that Obama’s drinking has, on occasion, been more than moderate.
    President Obama is emotionally shutting down. He is a terribly depressed man. Of course he is being treated, He’s the President of the United States. He is receiving medication for his depression.

  • marcel 10/17/2010 at 7:34

    ‘A peace agreement is essential even if President Obama’s efforts to date to reach out to moderate Muslims….have achieved less than stellar results’ larry and the derfner
    After 17 years of ongoing Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel and never ending rocket attacks from ‘no longer occupied Gaza’ and this farce peace scheme pushed down Israel throat where only Israel is REQUIRED to show ‘good faith'(goodwill gestures and Nevillesque acts of appeasement)when any astute observer can see that the endgame is israel’s destruction by way of this rigged no-peace Road Map to hell.
    We still have ignorant fools with their non existent moderate muslims and assorted delusions of any real peace with the cult of death.
    Islam does not want peace it want’s submission by dhimmis and dead infidels you idiot.
    Moderate muslims have long ago been shown the peace of the grave by their fellow muslims.
    They can’t even live in peace among themselves and you still keep licking Obama’s manure stained shoes.
    Michael Savage is so right, Liberalism is a mental disorder and you Mr. Snider are evidence of this insanity infecting so many of the brainwashed masses unable to deal with reality or face it.

  • captnstarstripe 10/17/2010 at 8:06

    Another great article Caroline! The Philistines will never recognize Israel’s right to exist or as a Jewish State. I am an American & fully support Israel. Israel should build settlements & knock that pagan mosque off the temple mount while you are at it. It is your land given to you by God Himself. The voters over here in America are about to show Obama just how much we dislike him. Netanyahu needs to stand strong & draw confidence that God has given this land to the Jewish people.

  • amerisrael.typepad.com 10/17/2010 at 18:51

    While most Americans are definitely supportive of Israel, our government isn’t.
    And it doesn’t matter if its the dhimmi Dems, or the clueless Republicans.
    The U.S., if not outright hostile, nevertheless, always finds a way to pull the rug out from under Israel.
    In 1982 when the IDF had Arafat and his terrorist buddies surrounded in Lebanon, the Reagan Administrations view should have been,–“What can we do to help you wipe out these jihad terrorists”
    But no, instead they sent Philip Habib over there to pressure Israel into allowing safe passage for the PLO jihadists.
    It was under the Reagan Administration that the irresponsible process of wrongly legitimizing the PLO was began.
    In fact Colin Powell was the one who sent a letter through back channel means to make contact with Arafat.
    Two years ago during the Republican primary campaign, Huckabee was the only candidate to state forcifully that Israel should not give up Judea, Sameria, or split apart the capital of Jerusalem. And the “establihmemt” Republican politicians and talk show hosts like Hannity and Limbaugh could only attack him.
    Huck made some mistakes as governor of Arizona, but he still would be 100 times better than what we have now.

  • Jana Rene Funkhouser 10/17/2010 at 22:57

    Excellent article, Caroline. It is my hope that Benjamin Netanyahu will stand undaunted for Israel against the Israeli Left knowing that most American’s stand with him.

  • Anonymous 10/18/2010 at 1:53

    Keep your chin up. Israel has many friends. Some willing to take a bullet. Thanks for all the information you supply every day. Its much appreciated in this World of lies for sale.
    There was a moment this week in which I felt very proud to be Canadian. There could be moments like that in any week, but this one was unusual for its cause. It was something done by the government, that invoked principle, and required courage. That made it something rare, to be savoured.

  • usabruce 10/19/2010 at 3:38

    There is a mass Conservative movement in America that is fielding citizen politicians from it’s own ranks and communities. This movement has garnered a great following and is in the process of cleaning out both corrupt sides of the aisle.
    It will take more than this upcoming election, certainly, to accomplish this and effect real change.But that change is coming.
    Public opinion in America was strongly against continuing the building freeze.
    We are working to politically relegate the Left back to the lunatic fringe that they crawled out from. We’ve had it with those internal enemies.
    I suggest that Israel do the same with theirs.


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