Archive for September 18th, 2010
American public opinion and the special relationship with Israel
There is no question that the United States has a relationship with Israel that has no parallel in modern history. Washington gives Israel consistent, almost unconditional diplomatic backing and more foreign aid than any other country. In other words, Israel gets this aid even when it does things that the United States opposes, like building settlements. Furthermore, Israel is rarely criticized by American officials and certainly not by anyone who aspires to high office. Recall what happened last year to Charles Freeman, who was forced to withdraw as head of the National Intelligence Council because he had criticized certain Israeli policies and questioned the merits of the special relationship.
Steve Walt and I argue that there is no good strategic or moral rationale for this special relationship, and that it is largely due to the enormous influence of the Israel lobby. Critics of our claim maintain that the extremely tight bond between the two countries is the result of the fact that most Americans feel a special attachment to Israel. The American people, so the argument goes, are so deeply committed to supporting Israel generously and unreservedly that politicians of all persuasions have no choice but to support the special relationship.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has just released a major study of how the American public thinks about foreign policy. It is based on a survey of 2500 Americans, who were asked a wide variety of questions, some of which have bearing on Israel. Their answers make clear that most Americans are not deeply committed to Israel in any meaningful way. There is no love affair between the American people and Israel.
This is not to say that they are hostile to Israel, because they are not. But there is no evidence to support the claim that Americans feel a bond with Israel that is so strong that it leaves their leaders with little choice but to forge a special relationship with Israel. If anything the evidence indicates that if the American people had their way, the United States would treat Israel like a normal country, much the way it treats other democracies like Britain, Germany, India, and Japan.
Consider some of the study’s main findings:
“Contrary to the long-standing, official U.S. position, fewer than half of Americans show a readiness to defend Israel even against an unprovoked attack by a neighbor. Asked whether they would favor using U.S. troops in the event that Israel were attacked by a neighbor, only 47 percent say they would favor doing so, while 50 percent say they would oppose it …This question was also asked with a slightly different wording in surveys from 1990 to 2004 (if Arab forces invaded Israel). In none of these surveys was there majority support for an implicitly unilateral use of U.S. troops.”
Americans “also appear to be very wary of being dragged into a conflict prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In this survey, conducted in June 2010, a clear majority of Americans (56%) say that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran”
“While Americans have strongly negative feelings toward the Palestinian Authority … a strong majority of Americans (66%) prefer to ‘not take either side’ in the conflict.”
“There is some tangible worry regarding the direction of relations with Israel. Although 44 per-cent say that relations with Israel are “staying about the same,” a very high 38 percent think relations are ‘worsening,’ and only 12 percent think they are ‘improving’.”
“Americans are not in favor of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a major sticking point in the conflict, with 62 percent saying Israel ‘should not build’ these settlements.”
Finally, only 33 percent of those surveyed feel that Israel is “very important” to the United States, while 41 percent said it was “somewhat important.” It is also worth noting that on the list of countries that were said to be “very important” to the United States, Israel ranked fifth behind China, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. Of course, all of those countries have a normal relationship with the United States, not a special relationship like the one Israel has with Washington.
The data in the Chicago Council’s study is consistent with the data that Steve and I presented in our book and in countless public talks. The story remains the same.
The bottom line is that the lobby is largely responsible for America’s special relationship with Israel, which is harmful to both countries. Alan Dershowitz was spot on when he said, “My generation of Jews … became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy.”
The Transparent Cabal
Posted By Ed Warner On September 17, 2010 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 5 Comments
History is full of examples of a determined minority prevailing over a more passive majority. A case in point is the neoconservative effort to bring the United States into war with Iraq largely for the protection of Israel. Despite the dubious reasons the neoconservatives advanced — Iraq has WMDs, ties to al-Qaeda — they managed to overcome the resistance of the military, the State Department and CIA partly by infiltrating them for their own ends. As the book title suggests, much of this was done in the open, a transparent cabal.
The cabal is described in convincing detail by author Stephen Sniegoski, who, somewhat retiring, lets the neoconservatives tell much of it in their own words — and what words! full of the passion of their endeavor: “Creative destruction is our middle name:” “precise military action against Hezbollah and Syria for as long as it takes without regard to mindless blather about proportionality;” “There is no middle way for Americans. It is victory or the holocaust;” “Could World War Two have been won by Britain and the United States if the two countries did not have it in them to firebomb Dresden and nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the willingness to inflict mass casualties on civilians?” Like Gaza? we might ask.
The neoconservatives, to be sure, had significant help from the top. President Bush, not well versed in foreign affairs; Vice President Cheney, basically a neoconservative himself; and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who wanted to try out his new concept of a sleek, swift high tech attack, which fitted nicely with neocon plans. Much of the media was also supportive, like the New York Times. Columnist Tom Friedman wrote: “The war is the most important, liberal, revolutionary democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan.” Poor George Marshall, who, as they say, must be rolling over in his grave.
But if the neoconservatives knew what they wanted, they were less sure of the consequences, indifferent really. That point was made by General Anthony Zinni observing the neoconservative reaction to the chaos in Iraq following the war: “Maybe some strong man emerges, it fractures, and there really is a Kurdish state. Who cares? There’s some bloodshed and it’s messy. Who cares? I mean we’ve taken out Saddam. We’ve asserted our strength in the Middle East. We’ve changed the dynamic, and we’re not putting any pressure on Israel.”
To avoid a global takeover by what he calls “Islamofascism,” former Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz urges war with Iran, no matter what the outcome: “There would be a vast increase in the price of oil with catastrophic consequences for every country of the world. The worldwide outcry against the inevitable civilian casualties would make the anti-Americanism of today look like a love fest.” Still, the war would be worth it.
Sniegoski gives almost equal time to neoconservative opponents, called “realists,” who argue that stability is paramount for the Middle East, while neoconservatives want to destabilize it as fast as possible. Their aim is to fracture the countries of the region into harmless statelets of no danger to Israel. Given the results of the war in Iraq, the realists would seem to have the better of the argument. But why didn’t they act on it at the time? They seemed to be strangely diffident, apparently lacking the conviction of the neoconservatives. Even much respected Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called them “crazies,” eventually gave in and helped bring on the war with his speech to the UN.
The realists have another chance to rise to the occasion since the neoconservatives are now gunning for war with Iran, invoking the same fantasies they did with Iraq — the threat of nuclear destruction by a nation that doesn’t have nuclear weapons, while indeed Israel has an estimated 200 to 300 such weaponry.
No diplomacy for the neoconservatives. War is the only answer. Before the Iraq war began on specious grounds, Saddam Hussein tried to get talks started with the United States, and so has Iran — to no avail. Once demonized, always demonized. For all the tragic mistakes they have made, neoconservatives continue to exert influence.
Is there perhaps an alternative way of looking at the threats, real or perceived, that Israel faces? Are the neoconservatives so certain their policies may not be ultimately harmful to Israel as well as to the United States? Fragmented or failed states are vulnerable to the very terrorists the neoconservatives claim to fear. Contemporary Mexico is a perfect example. A weak central government has lost control of the murderous criminal cartels that have established their own fiefdoms — a state within a state. They thrive on smuggling illicit drugs and human beings to the United States and receive weaponry in return that allows them to keep on killing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to deal with existing centrally controlled regimes, however critical of Israel, than take the chance of a terrorist-ridden region?
This deserves debate, but there isn’t any because the major media have ignored Sniegoski’s book. It’s scrupulously written with careful attention to detail. Its drawback? It can bring charges of anti-Semitism because it deals critically with a largely though not exclusively Jewish group. But Sniegoski is at pains to distinguish the neoconservatives from the greater Jewish community that is generally more averse to war than other Americans. So why not some reviews and a debate? It’s only democratic.
Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com