Most Democrats think the $38 billion dollar aid package the U.S. signed with Israel last week—the highest in U.S. history—is “too much or way too much” money, while Republicans are split on the amount, according to a survey conducted by the Brookings Institute.
Polling more than 1,500 in May, Brookings asked Americans along party lines what they thought of the U.S.-Israel relationship, in terms of dollars and cents. The question about the balloon payment read:
“The Obama administration is reportedly offering Israel a 10-year military aid package total[ing] approximately $40 billion. Israel is reportedly balking as it feels it needs more to maintain its ‘qualitative edge’ in the Middle East. Do you believe that what the Obama administration is offering is: way too little, too little, just about the right amount, too much, or way too much?”
Fifty-seven percent of Democrats answered Israel’s aid at $40 billion rolled out over ten years was too high, compared to 40 percent of Republicans. Another 40 percent of Republicans thought the package was too low.
The division between the GOP and Democrats on Israel remained consistent throughout the poll. Fifty-three percent of Democrats “think that the Israeli government has too much influence” in the U.S., while only 27 percent of Republicans said Israel exercises undue influence.
The issue where the two camps are most split is on settlements.
Republicans overwhelmingly back Israel’s settlements in the West Bank with 73 percent pledging the U.S. should “do nothing” to “limit opposition to” Israeli construction in the occupied Palestinian territory. Yet Democrats are divided. Fifty-three percent said they want the U.S. to impose economic sanctions on Israel if it does not freeze settlement building.
Among Republicans, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is popular, even more so than Ronald Reagan.
In a write-in question, more Republicans responded the “national or world leader that they admire most” is Netanyahu over any other official. For Democrats and Independents, both said Barak Obama was their favored leader, with Pope Francis trailing behind in second place.
The U.S. first began giving large sums to Israel in 1974 following the peace agreement with Egypt. Israel became the largest recipient of U.S. overseas aid, followed by Egypt in second place. But nothing dramatically positive has occurred in Israel’s foreign relations recently to warrant another fiscal boost wrote senior Brookings fellow Shibley Telhami who drafted the questionnaire.
“In this case, Israel is making no major strategic decision to attract this level of aid—and certainly not one over the Palestinian-Israeli or the broader Arab-Israeli conflicts,” Telhami said.
Following the aid agreement, President Obama will meet in New York with both Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in talks on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly about kick-starting a renewed round of peace talks. The last negotiations broke down in 2014, ending a few months before Israel went to war with Gaza. Since then, Russia has also extended an offer to broker Israeli-Palestinian talks.