I closely follow liberal Zionists because they are the power inside the Democratic Party, witness the fact that Chuck Schumer will be addressing J Street's conference later this month for the first time. What follows is a liberal Zionist argument I believe we're going to be hearing a lot of: the only thing we need to do to end the Democratic Party's disaffection with Israel is get rid of Netanyahu and Trump.
Jonathan Rynhold is a poli-sci professor in Israel and a researcher at a right-wing Israeli think-tank. His piece "The Special Relationship" was picked up by the liberal Israel Policy Forum and says that Americans feel a religious and "pioneering" identification with Israel, and Democrats remain "firmly" in Israel's corner, despite the publicity given to two supporters of the Boycott campaign in Congress. "[O]nly a minority of Democrats have a negative view of Israel." Half of Dems in a recent survey (from a neoconservative source) see the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign as anti-Semitic.
Rynhold's big challenge is that since 2014, the "pro-Israel margin" among Democrats (whether they have more sympathy for Israel or the Palestinians) has been virtually wiped out. It "has dropped by a whopping 25 percentage points... Such a sharp deterioration is unprecedented." In the Pew survey below, that margin is in low single digits. Gallup puts it in the low-teens.
Democratic support for Israel over Palestine has been plummeting in the last five years.
(Image by Jonathan Rynhold graph.) Details DMCA
Rynhold says the progressive American distaste for Israel is largely the product of Trump and Netanyahu making the issue partisan. He all but ignores human rights concerns. He says settlements are an issue but hardly mentions the Gaza onslaught of 2014 that seems to have been crucial in shifting progressive attitudes. He does not state that Israel killed more than 2,000 people including 500 children then. Bernie Sanders slammed the Israeli response as "disproportionate" and called for an even-handed policy.
Rynhold also leaves out the slaying of nearly 200 protesters at the Gaza fence in the last 18 months. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once called that a "massacre." Rynhold never mentions the word "apartheid." But even Jake Tapper at the 92d Street Y says that it is hard to speak of Israel in neutral terms these days, and "apartheid" is a fair charge when Israel's government "has absolutely no intention of ever giving full rights to Palestinians in the West Bank, which is the definition of apartheid."
Rynhold pins the blame on Netanyahu. He notes that among Democrats, "the decline in the margin of sympathy for Israel" tracks "the sharp decline in the margin of favorable opinion of the Prime Minister in this period." He cites an AIPAC official who faulted Netanyahu for speaking to Congress and alienating Democrats.
He also says Democrats don't like Israel because Republicans like Israel, not so much because of anything Israel is doing.
"[B]etween 2016-2018 Israel became bound up with affective partisanship independently of developments in Israeli-Palestinian relations."
He says Dems are getting more dovish generally. Again, nothing about Israel's conduct.
"Democrats' attitudes regarding policy towards Israel derive from their underlying dovish attitudes to American foreign policy in general. In the new Millennium, Democrats have become increasingly skeptical about the utility of military force and increasingly hopeful about the promise of diplomacy."
And Dems are secular, and Israel's right wing government is exacerbating seculars' alienation:
"Americans of 'no religion' have become the largest 'religious" group among Democrats and of all major ethnic and 'religious' groups their support for Israel has been the lowest. This means that for Democrats the special relationship increasingly rests on Israel's identity as a liberal-democracy. Against this background, Netanyahu's banning the entry into Israel of [Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar], to appease Donald Trump, was another own goal, which, in a highly unusual move, was criticized publicly by AIPAC."
Rynhold offers an Rx to fix the Democrats' problem. First, Israel must take some largely symbolic steps on human rights.
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