No, 45% of Americans Don't Support Israel Over the US

Today, Bloomberg released a new poll that many are using to say that Israel is now a partisan issue in the United States. If this conclusion is justified, it would be a terrible development in the long tradition of strong bipartisan support for Israel. Like in Europe, support for Israel would be coming solely from the conservative side of the aisle.

This interpretation is based on two questions that we at the Judean People’s Front are troubled were even asked:

When it comes to relations between the U.S. and Israel, which of the following do you agree with more?

  • Israel is an important ally, the only democracy in the region, and we should support it even if our interests diverge.
  • Israel is an ally but we should pursue America’s interests when we disagree with them.

and

Recently there have been clashes between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?

It should be stated - though it isn’t in the Bloomberg article discussing the Israel questions - that this was not a poll just about Israel. This was a poll about the 2016 Presidential Election. It contained questions about voter perceptions about potential candidates and Republican leaders (where Netanyahu was the only non-American listed, and polled better than all Republicans other than President George W. Bush), questions about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and about the Iran deal. This means that those polled were coming at these questions specifically thinking about the election, not necessarily about US-Israel ties in general.

###US-Israel Relations

When it comes to relations between the U.S. and Israel, which of the following do you agree with more?

  • Israel is an important ally, the only democracy in the region, and we should support it even if our interests diverge.
  • Israel is an ally but we should pursue America’s interests when we disagree with them.

The above question is incredibly problematic, should never have been asked, and, absent a specific situation in which it would come into play, completely impossible to answer.

US-Israel

The idea that American voters should decide whether or not they should support Israel even when it isn’t in America’s best interest smacks of the ancient anti-Semitic claim of Jewish dual-loyalty. “Jews are more loyal to Israel and other Jews than they are to our country,” is a common refrain among Islamists and neo-Nazis alike. Yes, this poll wasn’t only of Jewish voters, but this question hearkens back to this antiquated notion.

Is it actually possible that 45% of Americans believe they should support Israel even when doing so would go against American interests? Such an astonishing and troubling number should be investigated, not accepted blindly. Upon closer examination of the question it becomes clear: Voters were presented with only two options, one very pro-Israel and another less so and 45% chose the very pro-Israel choice. There was no outright anti-Israel option, meaning that Israel-supporters on the fence over the phrasing would be more inclined to choose the more pro-Israel sounding option, regardless of their reservations about it.

Bloomberg included the following that supports our understanding of the poll:

Robert Veenstra, 31, a Catholic Republican and self-described conservative from North Port, Florida, who participated in the poll, said he doesn’t yet have a strong preference among Republican presidential hopefuls—but that support of Israel is crucial. “I believe Israel needs the support,” he said… At the same time, he offered a caveat to his own view that the U.S. should support Israel’s interests even when they diverge, saying he’s comfortable taking that stance because Israel isn’t asking for anything that truly imperils the U.S. [emphasis JPF]

“While I care about the relationships we have with other countries, and other people’s suffering, at the end of the day my country is most important to me,” he said. [emphasis JPF]

While Veenstra chose the more pro-Israel option, he makes it clear that he still supports the United States in major disagreements. The reason he felt comfortable choosing that option was not only because of his strong affinity for Israel, but because Israel is not and has never made dangerous requests that might imperil the US. Sure a very small minority would support such a situation in which the US makes its own interests subservient to those of Israel, but such a small, fringe group doesn’t deserve to have their views legitimized in such a way. Polls also show 45% of Americans believe in ghosts and 22% of Americans either don’t believe al-Qaeda was behind 9/11 or aren’t sure. Should such views also be brought up for legitimate discussion in presidential polls?

Moreover, without specific scenarios, the question is too vague to draw any substantive conclusions. For example, more Americans would likely support backing Israel at the UN even though it would make US-Arab relations more difficult. On the flip side, far fewer would be willing to back an Israeli attack on Iran during US-led negotiations. Without a hypothetical, it is impossible to gauge to what extent American support for Israel truly trumps support for US interests. Therefore, even without all the accompanying anti-Semitic baggage, this question is completely worthless.

###Obama v. Netanyahu: The Showdown

Recently there have been clashes between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?

This question is equally useless.

Netanyahu-Obama

People like Peter Beinart would like us to see this as proof that Conservatives in the US support a foreign leader over the President of the United States, tweeting:

This is nonsense.

NEWSFLASH: Conservatives in the US don’t support President Obama!

Is anyone surprised by this? Should anyone be?

This question was a referendum on President Obama and his handling of the negotiations with Iran, with only slightly more Republicans supporting Netanyahu (67%) than are pessimistic about the Iran deal (62%) and Independents more pessimistic of the deal (48%) than supportive of Netanyahu (37%).

Beinart should also recognize that the question didn’t ask which politician they liked more, who they felt beholden to, or who they “prefer,” as he alleges. The question asked “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or to Obama [in the recent clashes between the two]?” Apparently in Beinart’s America, citizens are required to support their president and his policies regardless of their own personal beliefs and should be shamed for stepping out of line, even if they only do so in an independent, anonymous survey. The idea that Americans would agree with a foreign leader over their own President is too shocking for him to contain himself… but only as long as that President is a Democrat.

Before signing off, we’d like to give a special shoutout to political dilettante Jeremy Fischer. This 26-year-old self-identified Jewish Democrat has absolutely nothing to add to the discourse other than an embarrassing declaration of his political indecision. He claims he’d be open to voting for a “moderate” over the Democratic nominee (read: Hillary Clinton) but insists Israel and Iran wouldn’t be deciding factors, nor is he expecting to have to make that choice. He then offers his borderline offensive view of Jewish voters, saying, “my guess is people closer to my age would skew one way and people closer to my parents’ age or grandparents would skew another. The closer you are in age to the Holocaust the more likely you are to believe Israel is right all the time.” Today (Yom Hashoah) might be a good day for Fischer to bridge the time gap between him and the Holocaust and maybe remind himself that to support a country is not defined by blind support for every single action of its government.