What are we to make of the new poll that supposedly shows a decline in American support for Israel? According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the survey was conducted by the Israel Project and the results were leaked by someone who obtained the data immediately after polling last week.
Reportedly, the poll shows a precipitous drop in the number of those who call themselves supporters of Israel, with 44 percent believing the United States should support Israel as opposed to 69 percent last year.
However, not all the results in this poll are bad for Israel. Despite the decline in Israel backers, the Palestinians are still favored by only five percent of Americans with 32 percent saying they are undecided.
As for the question of the ultimate disposition of the lands disputed by Israelis and Arabs, 57 percent of Americans say that some of the West Bank should be retained by Israel for security – a position that dovetails nicely with the stand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seems to contradict the position of President Obama, who has called for a complete freeze in Jewish life everywhere inside the territories. Even more telling is that 66 percent of those polled do not believe that the creation of a Palestinian state or the freeze of Jewish settlement activity will lead to peace. And 85 percent believe that Iran is a serious threat to Israel.
So even if we accept the idea that support for Israel has declined, the poll still reveals that Americans are by no means sanguine about the Obama administration’s decision to feud with Israel’s government while seeking to appease Arab and Muslim opinion.
However, it would be foolish to dismiss the results showing lower figures of support for Israel and not to ponder what is responsible for such results. Two obvious answers present themselves to this question.
The first is the enormous damage done to Israel’s reputation by the media’s coverage of the fighting in Gaza in December and January. The failure of the media to adequately report the attacks on Israelis and their acceptance of misleading Palestinian propaganda about casualties was a blow to Israel. The willingness of many Americans to accept the lie that Israel’s counter-attack against a campaign of Palestinian terrorist rocket fire was disproportionate or unjustified has probably cost the Jewish state some support.
Second is the decision of President Obama to devote so much of his early presidency to fueling a dispute with Israel over settlements and a dead-in-the-water peace process while giving the Palestinians a pass over their complete lack of interest in peace. Obama’s personal popularity is a major factor when probing American opinion on any issue on which he has expressed an opinion. The administration’s clear decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel at the expense of ties with an undemocratic and largely unfriendly Muslim world has to have had some impact on American support for Israel. But given that the same poll figures still show majority support for Israel and against the Palestinians, should Obama continue to pursue these policies, there may eventually be a price to pay.
That said, the poll ought to be a wake up call to Americans who care about Israel, including the majority of American Jews who voted for Obama. Sooner or later, they are going to have to stand up and start holding Obama accountable on both Israel and Iran.