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March 18, 2013 1:30 am

Americans Support Israel. Does Their President?

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

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President Barack Obama (far right) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak—both checking their watches—in September 2010 at the White House. Photo: White House.

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, American constituents are concerned about his attitude toward Israel, as reported by the March 4 issue of The Hill, one of the two newspapers on Capitol Hill.

According to The Hill, which features a Pulse Opinion Research poll, “The president’s support for Israel was found wanting by many voters … Three times as many voters believe that the Obama administration is not supportive enough of Israel [39 percent] as believe it is too supportive [13%].”

Once again, American voters reaffirm their sustained and solid support of the Jewish state and Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, which dates back to the 17th century Pilgrims and 18th century Founding Fathers, who considered themselves “the modern day Israelites.” The Jewish state has never been considered as a classic foreign policy issue, but rather as an integral part of the cultural and moral foundations of the United States: Judeo-Christian values.

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The proportion of voters who say that Obama does not give strong enough backing to Israel is higher than it was in each of three similar surveys conducted for The Hill since May 2011. Fewer voters find Obama’s policy excessively supportive of Israel … A slightly larger percentage of likely voters say Obama is generally anti-Israel [30%] than those who say that he is pro-Israel [28%].” In the May and March 2011 polls, 31% and 32% respectively said the president was not supportive enough, while 27% and 25% respectively said Obama was too supportive of Israel.

Elected officials in the U.S. — the legislatures and executives alike — are much more accountable and attentive to constituents’ opinions and worldviews than any other Western democracy. The federalist system highlights voters as the chief axis of the political process, and “we shall remember in November” reverberates powerfully — every two years — through the corridors of power on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. Voters’ priorities and worldviews are reflected, most authentically, through both chambers of Congress, which constitute the most potent legislature in the free world, co-determining and co-equal to the U.S. executive.

The March 2013 Gallup poll features Israel, once again, among the top five to seven countries that are most favored by Americans. Israel is favored by 66%, while not favored by 29%. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority — which is not favored by the Arab regimes, but embraced by the “Palestine firsters” in Washington, D.C. — is not favored by 77% and favored by a mere 15%. Once again, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad’s Palestinian Authority joins Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as the least favorable entities.

According to Gallup, Israel is the only top ally of the U.S. that is involved in a high-profile conflict with its neighbors — the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world — which are supported by some Americans who automatically oppose Israel. Therefore, Israel’s 66% favorability is quite significant, since its potential favorability is uniquely constrained.

Israel is perceived by most Americans as a democratic ally, a senior strategic partner in the battle against mutual threats such as Iran’s nuclearization, Islamic terrorism and the raging Arab street — a trustworthy beachhead in an area that is critical to vital U.S. economic and national security interests. At the same time, the Palestinian leadership — which sided with the communist bloc, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden — is identified with the increasingly hostile Muslim street, totalitarian and corrupt regimes and the U.S.’s arch rivals, China and Russia.

The results of the Gallup and Pulse polls are consistent with the Dec. 27, 2012, Pew Research Center poll (Israel was favored over the Palestinian Authority by a 5:1 ratio), the Nov. 18, 2012, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll (59% favorable, 13% unfavorable), the Sept. 17, 2012, Foreign Policy Initiative poll (70% favorability for Israel) and the March 2012 Gallup poll (71%, favorable, 19% unfavorable).

At the time when the Arab street is boiling, Israel is increasingly recognized as America’s most reliable, stable, predictable, capable, democratic and unconditional strategic ally in the Middle East, and probably in the world. At a time when political polarization is intensifying in the U.S., support of Israel constitutes a rare common denominator on, and off, Capitol Hill, reflecting shared values, mutual threats and joint interests.

Obama’s March visit to Israel constitutes an opportunity to prove to American constituents that the president shares their support of the Jewish state.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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