US Attitudes, Discourse on Israel Shifting to Realism

A dispassionate examination of Israeli policy and its negative impact on the US at the Wilson Center by 5 former ambassadors is summarized at the Holy Land Peace Project blog. Josh argues that there is a significant change in what can be said publicly with regard to criticism of Israeli government actions. Some major points made by the ambassadors:

‘# Continued Israeli settlement building (not just expansion but building) is a major obstacle to the peace process and undermines the U.S. role as a mediator in the region.
# Petraeus was absolutely right: American security interests are threatened by the lack of progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
# The Obama administration has rightfully placed great focus on peacemaking, appointing George Mitchell on his first full day in office and reaching out to the Arab world with his Cairo speech. However, after 15 months the administration has not really laid out a clear U.S. policy on Israeli-Palestinian peace and this is hampering his efforts.’

But the supposed ban on saying these things was always a project of a small number of far-rightwing but very wealthy Jewish-American organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

More American Jews want a Palestinian state than do not want one according to a just-released survey of American Jewish opinion by the American Jewish Congress (48% to 45%). Admittedly, 67% of the general American public supports a Palestinian state, but that nearly half of American Jews do, as well, shows that this issue is controversial only because a few far rightwing fringe elements are supported by a small number of extremely wealthy Christian Zionists and Wall Street types. By the numbers, I am solidly in the mainstream of both general American and US Jewish attitudes on this issue. It is the Daniel Pipes, Martin Kramers, Marty Peretzes, and John Hagees who are the extremists.

Some 64% of American Jews are also in favor of dismantling ‘some’ settlements on the West Bank to get peace, and nearly one in ten want all settlements disbanded. Among Americans in general, only 49% say Israel should be required to stop building settlements as part of a peace deal. It isn’t exactly the same question, but it may be that Jewish Americans are more flexible on this issue than are American gentiles, and they are certainly more flexible than are Republican Christians.

One big danger signal for supporters of Israel: The percentage of Americans who were sure that Israel is an ally of the US has fallen in Rasmussen’s polling from 70% last August to 58% in March. Since the far rightwing Likud government in Israel is clearly not interested in cooperating with the current US Middle East policy, and this attitude is obvious in their churlish behavior toward Joe Biden and US congressmen, it is no wonder that doubts are creeping in.

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6 Responses

  1. Polls aside, I am not dissuaded from the notion that elites, or at least the involved, have a larger influence on policy. The rich/powerful right-wingers noted above will have a more “equal” voice and ability to sway the masses, but I sense a real change in the disposition of people to buy into whatever the likud is dishing-up at the moment. What we are then left with is the backbone of our government to manage things to the TRUE best interests of the US, as well as Israelis and Palestinians.

    The viral impact of blogs like this one, as shown by an impressive set of responses to a tift on between Steven Walt and Robert Satloff (of WINEP) was illuminating and heartening. I don’t think its too much to hope for some serious erosion of the Likudnicks influence. Sadly, this assumes our govt hasn’t been totally corrupted, which in looking at a number of other fronts, from the reform of heathcare to banking reform, leaves me far less optimistic….

  2. My shift to realism instead of believing the myths I had been fed my whole life about Israel started with the Iraq war, its cost of between 1 and 3 trillion dollars, 5,000+ American lives, between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqi lives, the destruction of a country and the disdain in which we were held around the world and asking how and why? The morphing of the Perle Clean Break paper for Netanyahu in the 1990’s on how Israel could avoid giving up any land to the Palestinians by attacking Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. and how that morphed into the PNAC papers and straight into the US Middle East foreign policy forced me to look much more closely at the equities involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It goes without saying that I realized I had been fed a pack of lies my whole life.

    In my view, Israel might have been able to avoid this shift had they not been so pushy about getting the US to take out Iran for them at further outrageous cost to us in blood and treasure. One little noticed aspect of this issue is that the Administration has forced Israel to own the Iran issue. I think McCain and his neocons would have immediately framed the Iran issue as a vital US interest rather than an essentially Israeli interest. It is a huge deal that the attention has been forced onto Israel.

    It can’t be written enough that Israel would have us go to war for them against Iran at a cost of more of our trillions and more loss of life, destroy another country. destroy again our reputation in the world and for what? Essentially expansionist greed–so that Israel can keep appropriating land and killing and disenfranchising the Palestinians.

    How many trillions of dollars of our treasure and lives lost is it worth to support Israel’s irredentist claim? I firmly believe that more writing about this line of questioning is bound to put the American people in a more realist frame of mind at a faster pace. I also don’t believe that the Israeli propaganda will work with this framing. I’d also like someone to ask why Israel is not willing to reimburse us the trillions that an Iran action would cost. After all, our allies paid for the first Iraq war. Why should the cost of an Iran action for Israel’s benefit be borne by us?

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