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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

American Jews and Israel

Proof once again that Republican foreign policy choices regarding Israel are all about evangelicals, not American Jews.
J Street has just released a new poll on American Jewish attitudes. Most of the questions are leading ones, designed to create the impression of support for J Street's pro-peace agenda. By a 71-29 margin, American Jews think the American government should exert pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to make peace. Whoda thunk? But the following question is more interesting:
A majority of all American Jews, 52-48 percent, still support an active role even if the United States were to publicly state its disagreements with only Israel. American Jews are evenly split on support for exerting pressure on only Israel, a notion that J Street opposes.
This does seem to be evidence of the genuine split in American Jewish attitudes described by Jacob Weisberg in Slate. Liberal American Jews (the majority, that is) have never been comfortable with Israel's settlements in the West Bank, with its weird subsidies and protected status for Orthodox Jews who live as a virtual state within a state, or with the general philosophical conundrum of support for a state with an explicitly religious-ethnic character. That discomfort has, in many cases, turned into outright condemnation since Israel's deliberate destruction of the Palestinian Authority in 2001-03, its construction of the West Bank barrier, and its punishing offensives against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008, with their horrifying Palestinian civilian casualties. Many American Jews have, like Thomas Friedman, become convinced that Israel has become a "drunk driver" that needs to be restrained by its friends abroad, lest it destroy itself. The Netanyahu government's defiance of the Obama administration's call for a settlement freeze has reinforced this conviction. [...]

It's no wonder Israelis react warily to American Jews. The fact of the matter is that Israel is driving itself off a cliff with its refusal to stop building settlements. But it's an open question whether there's any way to get them to listen to the back-seat drivers, even if they happen to be right.

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