By Yoram Ettinger, Ynet, March 11, 2011
At the end of 1989, Israel’s top Foreign Office bureaucrats argued that Israel was, ostensibly, losing ground in the USA, due to the end of the Cold War, a supposed New World Order and Prime Minister Shamir’s dismissal of “land-for-peace.” Therefore, they proposed that, in order to secure relations with the US, Israel should cede land to the Palestinians.
However, their assumptions were resoundingly refuted. Israel’s strategic posture was upgraded as a derivative of the New World Disorder and a series of mutual threats, such as Islamic terrorism, Iran, ballistic missiles, rogue Arab regimes – exacerbated Middle East volatility, violence and uncertainty. US-Israel strategic cooperation expanded significantly, in spite of deep disagreements over the Palestinian issue and in defiance of President Bush and Secretary of State Baker.
In 2011, despite the 1989 lessons and the 2011 seismic upheaval in Arab countries, Jerusalem again considers ceding land to the Palestinians, in order to sustain strategic cooperation with the USA, under the false assumptions that US –Israel relations evolve around the Palestinian issue, that Israel-in-retreat is respected by Americans, and that Israel’s strategic standing in the US is undergoing erosion.
Thus, Gallup’s annual (February 2011) poll on American attitudes toward foreign countries highlights Israel as a favorite American ally. Israel (68%) ranks among the seven most popular countries, which include Canada, Britain, Germany, Japan, India and France, ahead of South Korea and dramatically ahead of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt (37%, 50% and 40% respectively). The Palestinian Authority (19%) is at the bottom of the list, along with Iran and North Korea.
Currently, Israel benefits from a public opinion tailwind, merely one percent behind its 1991 all time record popularity. Israel’s image as a credible, reliable, capable, stable, democratic, non-conditional ally of the USA is bolstered against the backdrop of the current turmoil in Arab lands, which clarify that the Palestinian issue is not the core cause of the Middle East turbulence, is not the crown jewel of Arab policy-making and is not favored by the American People and Congress.
Anyone claiming that Israel is losing ground in the USA, and that in order to rebound Israel must introduce more concessions to the Arabs, is either dramatically mistaken, outrageously misleading or seeking an alibi for vacillation in face of pressure by a relatively-weak American president.
A positive image of the Jewish State, and a negative image of Arab countries, has dominated the state of mind of the American constituency, which is the key axis of the US political system, holding an effective stick over the head of American legislators and presidents.
According to the February 25, 2011 Rasmussen Report, one of the top three US pollsters, most constituents would stop foreign aid to Arab countries, but support foreign aid to the Jewish State. 61% do not expect the current Middle East upheaval to advance democracy or peace in Arab countries.
The most realistic expression of Israel’s robust standing in the US is reflected by the most authentic representatives of the American People: the Legislature. Congress is equal in power to the Executive, representing the attitudes of the American constituent on domestic, external and national security issues. Hence, 75% of the 435 House Representatives and 80% of the 100 Senators – Republicans and Democrats alike – tend to support the Jewish State through legislation and resolutions, sometimes in defiance of the White House.
The gap between the world view of President Obama and most constituents was exposed in November 2010, when Democrats suffered – due to Obama’s plummeting popularity – the most devastating political defeat since World War 2. That gap also reflects the attitude toward Israel, which constitutes a rare bi-partisan common denominator, earning a higher level of support (68%) than Obama (47%).
The American constituent does not consider the Jewish State a conventional foreign policy issue, but also a domestic issue, closely identified with the moral Judeo-Christian foundations of the USA. Moreover, unlike Obama, most constituents regard President Reagan as a role model of values and view the Jewish State as the “Ronald Reagan of the Middle East,” representing their basic values: respect toward religion and tradition, patriotism, security-oriented, anti-UN, anti-terrorism and suspicion toward Arab and Muslim regimes.
The solid foundation of shared US-Israel values, the recent volcanic eruptions in the Middle East and Israel’s strategic capabilities and reliability, have transformed the US into a sustained bastion of support of the Jewish State, notwithstanding problematic attitudes by some presidents, criticism by the “elite” media and hostility toward Israel on some US campuses.
This is not the time for vacillation and painful concessions; this is the time to enhance US-Israel strategic relations and demonstrate pain-killing steadfastness.