Israel HaYom (Feb 21) — At a time when the White House is pressuring Israel to make dramatic concessions, the Jewish state is enjoying an all-time popularity high among Americans, and therefore among their elected officials in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
According to a February 18, 2014 Gallup poll, Israel is the most valuable player in the Middle East — 72 percent have a “very/mostly favorable” view of it — leading all other Middle East countries by a wide margin: Egypt (45%), Saudi Arabia (35%), etc.
Israel’s popularity is at its highest since 1991, when Gallup first polled Americans on foreign countries, compared to 2009 (63%), 2010 (67%), 2011 (68%), 2012 (71%) and 2013 (66%).
Israel is more popular than most Western democracies, while the Palestinian Authority is ranked among the least favorable (19% favorability), along with North Korea (11%), Iran (12%), Syria (13%) and Iraq (16%). Thus, when U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the 2014 State of the Union address, he was greeted with indifference when stating: “American diplomacy [aims] to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians.” However, the president triggered resounding applause when continuing: “… and lasting peace and security for the state of Israel — a Jewish state that has known that America will always be at their side.”
The Gallup findings reveal that the more experienced and mature Americans are, the higher Israel’s favorability: 81% among those 55 or older (who tend to be more knowledgeable about international relations, in general, and Israel in particular), 72% among those in the 35-54 age group and 64% among those between the ages of 18 and 34.
The Gallup data highlights the fact that Americans in general, rather than U.S. Jewry, are the main source of intense identification with the Jewish State. That is also the case on Capitol Hill, where the key U.S.-Israel initiatives have been conceived and led by Christian legislators (most notably, the late Senator Daniel Inouye). In fact, the vast majority of Americans have embraced the idea of a Jewish state since the 17th century pilgrims — long before the integration of the Jewish community into American society, and many years before the founding of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Such determination was underlined by an October 2013 Pew Research Center poll: 55% of America’s Christians (and 82% of evangelicals) — compared with 47% of American Jews — asserted that Israel was given to the Jewish people by God. An April 2010 Quinnipiac Institute poll documented an overwhelming majority of Americans (66% against 19%) urging Obama to be more supportive of Israel.
While Obama suffers from erosion of support by an increasing number of legislators from his own party — as has been the case with all second term presidents — while his approval rating drops to 40% according to a Gallup poll on February 16, and while polarization among constituents and legislators has been dramatically intensified, the record support of the Jewish state has been one of the few bipartisan consensus issues in America.
The support of Israel has been enhanced by the anti-U.S. Arab tsunami from the Persian Gulf to northwest Africa, the rising threat of Islamic terrorism — which has penetrated the U.S. mainland through hundreds of sleeper cells — and the rapidly expanding and mutually beneficial cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, commercially and militarily.
Moreover, support for Israel has been bolstered despite the tension between the White House and Jerusalem, due to the fact that most Americans do not consider the Jewish state a classic foreign policy issue. Americans have always considered the Jewish state an integral part of the American story, morally, culturally and politically.
The February 18 Gallup poll reflects the vitality and potency of the U.S.-Israel covenant, which has withstood wars, crises and pressure, constituting a robust tailwind behind the surge of the Jewish state from a remnant of the Holocaust to the prime ally of the U.S.