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A Partisan Divide

The National Journal‘s insiders’ poll, which surveys a list of senators and congressmen, asked about Obama’s treatment of Israel. The partisan divide was startling: among 39 Democrats, 82 percent thought Obama was “about right,” while only 8 percent said he was “too tough”; among 35 Republicans, 80 percent said “too tough,” while only 11 percent said “about right.” Now, some of the Democrats’ comments in the “about right” column reveal some implicit criticism (“Except that some issues should not be discussed in public. Israel is a true ally and should be treated that way,” “Let’s not forget who are the only true friends we have in the region”), but it is hard to miss the stark divergence. Republicans surveyed are clearly in line with the sentiments voiced this week by AIPAC leaders and participants (“The Obama administration seems to be tough on our most reliable and trusted allies and very lenient with our most distrusted and dangerous enemies. This foreign policy is a disaster”), as well as with Bibi Netanyahu (“Isn’t Jerusalem the capital of Israel?”).

It’s curious that many Democrats listed in the survey, but whose individual responses aren’t identified by name, also signed on to AIPAC letters calling on the administration to cool the public conflict with the Jewish state and to get serious with Iran sanctions. So there’s a bit of misdirection going on. The AIPAC letter on the blow-up with Israel over housing — no doubt to get everyone on board — did not criticize the administration as “too tough” or “too rude” or “too foolish,” but merely urged that the fight over the housing announcement not be allowed to “derail” peace negotiations or harm the U.S.-Israel relationship. And it called on conflicts to be resolved “amicably and in a manner that befits longtime allies.”

So what’s going on with elected Democrats? It may be that some are quietly cheerleading for the administration’s bully-boy routine while tut-tutting it when it comes to putting their names on a letter. The administration’s treatment of Bibi this week and it’s apparent aversion to petroleum sanctions on Iran is going to, I think, force some Democrats to make a choice: do they support crippling Iran sanctions and the pending legislation or not? We’ll see which if there’s any push for unilateral petroleum sanctions by the U.S. against Iran. And do they really object to the Obama offensive against Israel? Again, we’ll see who, if any, voices dismay on the shoddy treatment of Bibi and the continual insistence on extracting unilateral concessions from Israel. It seems that, of those insiders polled, there is no mistaking which party is pushing back strenuously against the administration and which is going through the motions but may be unwilling to cross the White House.


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