THE DEMOCRATS & ISRAEL
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Personnel appointments so far fit the Center-Left mold. On the plus side, as analyst Steven Rosen observes, this means that none of the team brings a "defined Left agenda of dangerous delusions – indeed, many of them are sensible and intelligent, resistant, if not immune, to the nonsense that blinds the majority of academicians." Especially when recalling Barack Hussein Obama's earlier associations (Ali Abunimah, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said) and the potential alternate "dream teams," this comes as a relief.
On the minus side, Rosen notes, the prospective staffers "are moderate and Centrist to a fault, with no one to sound the alarm about the extraordinary dangers we face, to propose a response beyond the usual."
Looking at the larger picture, beyond personnel, one finds a similar mixed picture. Note the pro-Israel resolution Congress passed earlier this month "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the U.S.A.'s strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." It passed the Senate unanimously and the House by 390-5, with 22 members registering "present." Of those 27, 26 were Democrats; and the 27th was Ron Paul, a Republican in name only.
This vote implies two points: First, the strong, bipartisan pro-Israel attitude of Americans has weathered the Gaza conflict. Secondly, persons cool or hostile to Israel overwhelmingly find their niche in the Democratic Party.
Polls over the past decade consistently substantiate that Americans strongly back Israel, but Democrats less so than Republicans. Already in 2000, I showed that "several times more members of the Republican Party are friendly to Israel than are Democrats, and their leaderships reflect this disparity." In recent years, poll after poll confirmed this pattern, even during the Hezbollah and Hamas wars. To cite a few:
March, 2006, Gallup: "are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" Reply: 72 percent of Republicans and 47 percent Democrats sympathize more with Israelis. (Difference: 25 percent.)
July, 2006, NBC/WSJ: "are your sympathies more with Israel or with the Arab nations?" Reply: 81 percent Republicans and 43 percent Democrats sympathize more with Israel. (Difference: 38 percent.)
August, 2006, LAT/Bloomberg: Do you agree that "The United States should continue to align itself with Israel"? Reply: 64 percent Republicans and 39 percent Democrats agree. (Difference: 25 percent.)
March, 2008, Gallup poll: 84 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats look at Israel favorably. (Difference: 20 percent.)
December, 2008. Rasmussen Reports: 75 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say Israel is an ally of the United States. (Difference: 20 percent.)
Republican support for Israel is persistently larger, ranging from 20 to 38 percent more than that of the Democrats and averaging 26 percent. It was not always thus. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans have dramatically changed places in their attitudes toward Israel over sixty years and three eras.
In the first era, 1948-1970, Democrats like Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy showed warmth to the Jewish state, while Republicans like Dwight D. Eisenhower were cool. In the second era, 1970-1991, Republicans like Richard M. Nixon and Ronald W. Reagan came to appreciate Israel as a strong ally; as I concluded in 1985, this meant that "Liberals and Conservatives support Israel versus the Arabs in similar proportions." With the end of the Cold War in 1991, however, a third era began, in which Democrats focused on the Palestinian cause and cooled to Israel, while Republicans further warmed to Israel.
Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition rightly notes that "Democrats are increasingly turning their backs on Israel." That trend anticipates a likely tension over the next four years, whether or not to adopt a more "European" approach to Israel.
Tensions already exist. On the one hand, the Obama team has been uncritical of Israel's war against Hamas, while stating that it will not deal with Hamas, that Israel is the key Middle East ally, and that U.S. policy will take Israel's security interests into account. On the other hand, the Obama team has shown a willingness to associate with Hamas, plus displays tendencies to a more "even-handed" approach, to push negotiations harder, and to divide Jerusalem.
In short, policy toward the Jewish state is in play.
© Daniel Pipes 2009
Originally Published in Front Page Magazine, January 20, 2009
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, January 20, 2009
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/6137
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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