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To Israel with love: Why America gives Israel its unconditional support

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norml Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 12:16 PM
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To Israel with love: Why America gives Israel its unconditional support
Middle East policy

To Israel with love
Aug 3rd 2006 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition

Why America gives Israel its unconditional support


ANYBODY who doubts the size of the transatlantic divide over Israel should try discussing the Middle East conflagration in Britain and then doing the same in America. Everybody watches much the same grisly footage. But, by and large, people draw very different conclusions. The emphasis in Britain is overwhelmingly on the disproportionate scale of the response. Americans are much more inclined to give Israel the benefit of the doubtand to blame Hizbullah. Some Jewish organisations are so confident of support for Israel that they even take out slots during news programmes, pleading for donations.

Opinion polls confirm that Americans are solidly on Israel's side. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted on July 28th-30th showed that eight in ten Americans believed that Israel's action was justifiedthough a majority were worried about the scale of the action. A plurality (44%) thought that America was doing about the right amount to deal with the conflict. An earlier USA Today poll found that 53% put a great deal of the blame for the current crisis on Hizbullah, 39% put the blame on Iran and only 15% blamed Israel.

Similarly, Americans are far more likely than Europeans to side with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A Pew Global Attitudes survey taken between March and May found that 48% of Americans said that their sympathies lay with the Israelis; only 13% were sympathetic towards the Palestinians. By contrast, in Spain for example, 9% sympathised with the Israelis and 32% with the Palestinians.

The political establishment is even more firmly behind Israel than the public is. Support for Israel stretches from San Francisco liberals like Nancy Pelosi to southern-fried conservatives like Bill Frist. The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan resolutions condemning Hizbullah and affirming Congress's support for Israel. The House version passed by 410 to 8 (of which three were from districts in Michigan with concentrations of Arab-Americans). The Senate resolution, sponsored by 62 senatorsincluding the leaders of both partiespassed unopposed.

Indeed, the parties are engaged in a competition to see who can be the most pro-Israeli. Twenty or so Democrats, including Ms Pelosi, the House leader, and Harry Reid, the Senate leader, demanded that Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, retract his criticisms of Israel or have his invitation to address Congress cancelled. (Mr Maliki, strongly backed by the administration, was eventually allowed to go ahead.) Several leading Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, have addressed pro-Israeli rallies. The contrast with the simmering rage within the Labour Party over Tony Blair's support for George Bush could hardly be more marked.

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