Much of the news concerning Israel and the United States this past week has been about the feud between the two nations’ leaders. But what about the relationship between the nations, themselves? The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby writes that despite the public clash between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American President Barack Obama, the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains as strong as ever:
But however fraught the relationship between Bibi and Barack, the rapport between their nations — the US-Israel bond — remains as deep-rooted and durable as ever.
The day before Rice’s appearance on “Charlie Rose,” Gallup released its newest survey of American attitudes toward Israel. Despite weeks of clamor over Netanyahu’s visit and the litany of White House complaints about Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, 70 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Jewish state — virtually indistinguishable from the 72 percent favorability Gallup measured last year. When asked to choose sides in the regional conflict, public backing for Israel was unchanged at 62 percent, close to its all-time high.
Most Americans feel a visceral attachment to Israel and what it represents, irrespective of their views about any particular Israeli politician. It works the other way, too: Israelis are intensely pro-American, whether the US president is one they adore (e.g., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) or tend to mistrust (e.g., Obama)…
Only at a superficial level is this about partisan or political loyalties. Immensely more important is the lethal threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Even without the bomb, Iran is the world’s most dangerous regime — apocalyptic incubator of terrorism and jihad, ruthless suppressor of human rights, unflagging zealot for wiping Israel “off the map,” and fanatic about bringing “Death to America.” Like any democratic politician, Netanyahu can be maddening or fickle. But there is no issue on which he has been so consistent, for so long, as preventing Tehran from acquiring the nuclear capability that would empower it to fulfill its genocidal goals. The fuss over protocol and personalities is interesting. It won’t keep Americans from giving their ally’s leader a respectful hearing.
Tension between Israeli prime ministers and US presidents is nothing new. As Egypt and Syria massed for war against Israel in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson sharply warned Israel’s Levi Eshkol not to launch a pre-emptive attack. Eshkol defied LBJ, and victory in the Six Day War was the result. In 1981, Menachem Begin’s unilateral decision to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak infuriated the Reagan administration, which voted to condemn Israel in the UN, and suspended the delivery of jet fighters as a mark of displeasure. Pressure from the White House has always been part of the US-Israel relationship. But so has the powerful, almost instinctive, bond between the American people and Israel.