An important recent poll by John Zogby on American opinion and I/P was rolled out yesterday at the New America Foundation. The striking finding was the partisan divide. Democrats have negative views of Netanyahu and the settlements, and are increasingly lukewarm on Israel. 63 percent of Dems agreed with the statement “Israeli settlements are built on land confiscated from Palestinians and should be torn down and the land returned to Palestinian owners.” Meanwhile 62 percent of GOPers concurred that “The settlements are necessary for the security of Israel and Israel citizens have the right to build on land on the Palestinian West Bank.” There are many wrinkles on this, but one conclusion is that the issue may become a hot button bone of contention between the parties, like abortion.
I asked whether the polls (which show that Dems and many independents would be very supportive of the Obama line on settlements and Petraeus formulations of the importance of a fair peace deal for broader US interests) broke down by income, and whether Obama risked severing the Dems from their fundraising base. Two answers: one from John’s brother James Zogby: higher income and more educated Dems tended to be more in favor of real effort to move the peace process. Then a very on-point elaboration from MJ Rosenberg: Jews in the Democratic Party in the main have the same profile, don’t like Netanyahu, support a just two-state solution. But then there’s the very small number of donors.
Rosenberg said that the people to watch were Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Congressman who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (i.e fundraising) who is “diehard 100 percent AIPACy” and Chuck Schumer who does the same thing as Van Hollen for the Senate, though he may be somewhat less devotedly “AIPACy” than Van Hollen. If those guys go to the President and say “the numbers are way down, give us a break,” it will be telling.
Obviously, people who care about this issue and have some money are going to have to step into the breach; whether that happens will be one of the most important questions in American politics in the coming period. A broader question is how did this happen to the Republican Party. It didn’t used to be that way. Dwight Eisenhower told Israel to stuff it after the Suez invasion, Nixon was certainly friendly enough, but hardly sentimental about Israel, Reagan was appalled by the Lebanon invasion, George HW Bush had policies very much like Obama’s. Since then there has been something like the complete neoconnization of the GOP’s foreign policy views, a tragic development. MJ Rosenberg suggested that anti-Muslim feeling may have become the same kind of symbolic, visceral, unifying sentiment among Red State Republicans that anti-black feelings became among Dixiecrat and soon to be Republican Southerners in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A large and very depressing conclusion.