Commentary Magazine


No Sale on Obama’s Middle East Policy

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of ”the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.