The American public continues to be the true “Israel Lobby”
Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting the U.S. this week, and will meet President Trump.
An important question is what is the status of the American popular opinion towards Israel.
There is a misconception that American political support for Israel is a result of the “Israel Lobby” and “Israel Firsters.” Those are terms frequently thrown around by regressive leftists and anti-Israel activists, a not too subtle play on the traditional antisemitic claim that Jews are disloyal to their home countries.
Polling consistently shows, however, that Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, and that support has increased over the past decade, as we reported last year, Gallup: Americans still overwhelmingly support Israel. The “Israel Lobby” actually is the American people, and political support reflects popular opinion.
There have been some troubling signs that the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party now is evenly split on Israel versus the Palestinians, as a Pew survey, showed last May. But neither Pew nor past Gallup surveys showed this phenomenon moving into the general public.
That’s not what you would think if you read only the liberal press, particularly the liberal Jewish press. You’d think support for Israel is collapsing. “As a Jew” Israel haters, like the misleadingly named “Jewish Voice for Peace” (not Jewish, not for peace), are very good at astroturfing media to create the impression of a groundswell of hostility to Israel. They hold small rallies of one or two dozen activists, but astutely publish tightly cropped photos to make it appear as if there was a massive turnout; the anti-Israel social media echo chamber then promotes the false narrative relentlessly.
I have been anxiously awaiting this years Gallup poll of American attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, to see if there has been any meaningful decline in support for Israel.
That Gallup polling was just published, and it shows no slippage in support for Israel, which continues at near historic highs. The gap in support of Israel over Palestinians is narrower, but in the historical range:
The latest results are from Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 1-5. The same poll included an update of Gallup’s long-standing measure of Americans’ “sympathies” in the Middle East conflict.
In response to the Gallup trend question, 62% of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis and 19% with the Palestinians, similar to the past several years. Another 19% express no preference, including 5% who say they sympathize with both equally, 6% who sympathize with neither and 8% who have no opinion.
Unfortunately, this Gallup report does not provide demographic breakdown, so it’s not possible to know if support for Israel has changed among millennials. Hopefully that data will be released at some point.
Supporters of Israel tend to overreact to even statistically small changes in support. But keep things in historical perspective. Here is Gallup data (pdf.) going back to the late 1980s. There were many times when support for Israel was well below 50%. We simply have become accustomed to the new normal of overwhelming support for Israel.
Of equal importance, given the left’s demonization of Netanyahu over his appearance in Congress to oppose the Iran deal, is that his popularity has soared:
Republicans’ views of Netanyahu have grown more positive in recent years, while Democrats’ views have become more negative. And Netanyahu’s appearance before the U.S. Congress in March 2015 to warn U.S. leaders about the dangers of the impending U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement was a watershed, causing Republicans to view him more favorably and Democrats less favorably. Since then, Republicans have warmed to him even more, while Democrats’ views have only partially tempered.
Currently, 32% of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably and 41% unfavorably. That compares with 31% favorably and 31% unfavorably in February 2015, before Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Meanwhile, Republicans’ views of Netanyahu are more positive today: 73% favorable and 11% unfavorable, versus 60% favorable and 18% unfavorable in February 2015.
There also is what Gallup calls “tepid” support for a Palestinian state:
As President Donald Trump talks about reaching a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is “good for all sides,” a new Gallup poll finds the American public closely split over one of the Palestinians’ longtime demands — Palestinian statehood. Currently, 45% of Americans support establishing an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while 42% oppose it. This follows years of significantly more Americans supporting than opposing Palestinian statehood.
Americans’ support for an independent Palestinian state is essentially unchanged from last year, but the percentage opposed is up five percentage points to 42% — the highest level seen in Gallup’s trend. However, on a proportional basis, the latest results are similar to 2015, when 42% favored a Palestinian state and 38% were opposed. The main difference is that fewer Americans today (13%) than in 2015 (20%) have no opinion.
So, on balance, despite the hoopla, there is no indication that support for Israel has slipped at all with the general American public.
The American public continues to be the true “Israel Lobby.”