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Lose Netanyahu and Dems will love Israel again — liberal Zionist mantra

Media Analysis
on 14 Comments

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 rightwing Israeli thinktank. 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. Per Jonathan Rynhold graph.

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 2000 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 sceptical 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.

First, Israel must consistently demonstrate a willingness, in principle, to support a two-state solution which will involve extensive territorial concessions, in exchange for peace and security. In practical terms, it must, at a minimum, hold open the possibility of such a solution, by severely constraining settlement expansion.

And let’s get new leadership on both sides.

As of now, a new Israeli Prime Minister would have an opportunity to begin to reverse the decline of the last five years, precisely because that decline is closely associated with Netanyahu…

[A] future Israeli government working with a future Democratic Administration could have vociferous disagreements and political battles on issues of vital interest to Israel, namely, Iran and the Palestinians. But so long as Israel adopts the recommendations referred to above, Democrat support for the special relationship will likely survive. After all, arguments and crises are nothing new…

At the last J Street conference in 2018, many speakers basically took the Rynhold line. They said the U.S. and Israel were in the same boat, with terrible rightwing leaders who were taking their countries off the path of liberal democracy. We just need to lose Netanyahu.

Rynhold’s view that the special relationship can survive strenuous disagreement echoes the Israel Policy Forum, when it says that the U.S. must oppose the annexation of the West Bank because it “would upend decades of carefully calibrated policy on Israel” and aid the BDS campaign.

Carefully-calibrated policy? Liberal Zionists are by and large actually OK with the status quo; and progressives aren’t. They see massacre and apartheid. That is the heart of the disagreement here. I believe Rynhold is wrong about US public opinion: there’s been a tectonic shift in the progressive camp, the human rights issue is now important because of Israel’s conduct. A majority of Dems support sanctions to end the settlement expansion. It will be interesting to see how much oxygen the J Street conference gives to these critics.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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14 Responses

  1. Keith on October 7, 2019, 4:24 pm

    PHIL- “I closely follow liberal Zionists because they are the power inside the Democratic Party….”

    Yup, they more-or-less run the Democratic Party.

    PHIL- “Bernie Sanders slammed the Israeli response as “disproportionate” and called for an even-handed policy.”

    Slammed? Calling mass murder “disproportionate” ain’t “slamming.” Bernie, like the Democratic power elites, is a militarist and an imperialist and Israel’s faithful friend, rhetorical grandstanding notwithstanding. And, once again, normally sane Norman Finkelstein displays his school girl crush on the Bern. Kinship runs strong and deep and Marxists never learn.

    JONATHAN RYNHOLD- ” In the new Millennium, Democrats have become increasingly sceptical about the utility of military force ….”

    That would certainly explain why Hillary Clinton was drummed out of the Party and uber interventionist (Libya, Ukraine, etc) Barack Obama is now held in such contempt. What fantasy world do you live in?

    PHIL- “…there’s been a tectonic shift in the progressive camp….”

    What progessive camp? Ukrainegate has replaced Russiagate and the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There has been no “progressive” change. Speaking of Ukrainegate, a quote and a link to Stephen Cohen, one of the few sane commentators around.

    “Finally, but not surprisingly, the shadow of Russiagate is now morphing into Ukrainegate. Trump is also being sharply criticized for asking Zelensky to cooperate with Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the origins of Russiagate, even though the role of Ukrainian-Americans and Ukraine itself in Russiagate allegations against Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016 is now well-documented.” (Stephen F. Cohen)

    • Mooser on October 7, 2019, 6:26 pm

      “the role of Ukrainian-Americans and Ukraine itself in Russiagate allegations against Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016 is now well-documented.”

      Do tell.

      • Mooser on October 7, 2019, 6:40 pm

        “There has been no “progressive” change.”

        Hey, who needs progressive change when deals between Putin and Trump will fix all the problems!

        You want “progressive change”? Get Mitch McConnell to bring some of the 200 pieces of legislation passed by the house to Senate consideration.

      • Keith on October 8, 2019, 12:46 am

        MOOSER- “Hey, who needs progressive change when deals between Putin and Trump will fix all the problems!”

        Obviously, for you group loyalty trumps rational thought and action. Yea Democrats! Yea Hillary! Boo Putin! Empire uber alles!

      • Keith on October 8, 2019, 12:56 am

        MOOSER- “Do tell.”

        If you could bring yourself to shut your mouth and open your eyes, you might want to read “War With Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine To Trump & Russiagate” by Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, considered by many as America’s foremost authority on Russia. Or would that be disloyal to your Democrat affinity group?

      • Keith on October 8, 2019, 4:19 pm


        Yes, the “liberal” media and the deep state are as one. Below is a quote and link to all of the “retired” intel folks who provide analysis for the media. No surprise that CNN tops the list of CIA “experts.”

        “After years in the shadows overseeing espionage, kill programs, warrantless wiretapping, entrapment, psyops and other covert operations, national security establishment retirees are are turning to a new line of work where they can carry out their imperial duties.

        That is, propagandizing the public on cable news. Reborn as cable news pundits, these people are cashing in. So many years working in the dark, only to emerge in the studio lights of the same networks that rail all day everyday against state TV from countries that America hates.” (Tyler Durden)

    • Misterioso on October 8, 2019, 11:07 am



  2. echinococcus on October 8, 2019, 4:55 am

    “the only thing we need to do to end the Democratic Party’s disaffection with Israel is get rid of Netanyahu– and Trump”

    He’s absolutely right.
    The owners of the Country, the spy alphabet soup and their selectively-only-Trumpophobe clueless liberal helpers, who were only disapproving of Zionism because the Z supported the wrong wing of the War Party wll be won back.

    Not only official Dims, they’ll immediately get back the whole imperialist band of the so-called West, who was only waiting for a pretext to stop pretending to a disapproval of Zionist illegality.

    Right now, all we need is stopping colonialism old and new, aggression and conquest. “Progressive change” can wait.

  3. Misterioso on October 8, 2019, 10:34 am

    As long as “Israel” continues to illegally and brutally occupy, oppress, dispossess and expel the indigenous Palestinians (as well as neighboring Arabs, e.g., Golan Height’s Syrians and Shebba Farms Lebanese), its rapidly declining image will not be reversed. Indeed, it will grow and grow within main street America and abroad. (Zionists: short term “smart,” long term stupid.)

    “Poll finds only 41% of Americans view Israeli government favorably”

    “Despite consistently pro-Israel U.S. media coverage, a new Pew poll found that most Americans view the Israeli government unfavorably. According to the poll, ‘Fewer than half (41%) have a favorable view of the Israeli government; a larger share (51%) views the government unfavorably.’

    “In addition, the poll found that about five times more Americans feel that Trump is favoring the Israelis too much than believe he is favoring Palestinians too much.

    “According to the survey, Americans 65 and older ‘are the only age group in which a majority (57%) have a favorable view of the government. Among the youngest adults (those younger than 30), just 27% view Israel’s government favorably.’

    “The poll found that among Republicans, Evangelical Protestants (which include all races) are more likely than non-evangelicals to express a favorable opinion of Israel’s government.

    “In recent years, however, support among evangelical Christians has been slipping.

    “A journalist reporting in 2012 about the ‘the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America’ stated: ‘In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millennials … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.’

    “The recent poll did not measure Jewish views (Pew says that the sampling size was too small to evaluate that demographic). However, a 2013 Pew survey on Jewish Americans showed strong Jewish connection to Israel, combined with criticism of the Israel government.

    “According to the poll, ‘Emotional attachment to Israel has not waned discernibly among American Jews in the past decade,’ with 69% (and 76% of religious) of Jewish Americans feeling attached to Israel.

    “At the same time, however, the poll found: ‘Many American Jews express reservations about Israel’s approach to the peace process. Just 38% say the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians.'”

    The Pew poll was conducted April 1-15, 2019 among 10,523 American adults.

    • Ismail on October 8, 2019, 11:25 am

      I don’t see how any of this is at odds with Rynhold’s comments, if that’s what you intended.

      The poll results are about “Israel’s gov’t”, which, at the time of the polling, was run by Netanyahu.
      As we’ve seen from many posts here at MW and elsewhere, Ganz would wield a similarly brutal hand but wearing a more appealing glove, but his would be a “different” gov’t. in the eyes of many of Natanyahu’s critics.

      Sorry, but I fear that PW’s and your (apparent) conviction that the American people have turned a corner and are no longer bamboozled by Israel’s rationalizations for its crimes is more optimistic than the evidence warrants.

      As much as I wish Rynhold were wrong, I too see the current turn away from Israel in US popular opinion as very bound to the Trump/Netanyahu axis. We’ve always fallen for a pretty face – Obama bailed out the banksters, gave political cover and endless money to Israel (with the exception of the UN “pass” at the end of his term), waged war during every single day of his presidency (an unprecedented “accomplishment”), went full-on Visigoth at whistle-blowers, pissed away his first-term massive positive public regard and dominance in both houses of Congress by not pushing even for a public option, etc, etc. Any doubt that a Repub with this record might get a little flack from progressives?

      And the settlement project in Israel was begun and expanded by Labor, the “good Zionists”, lionized by much of the left. Why? Not because their routing of a people was less abominable, but because they presented “una buona figura”, erudite and thoughtful and socially progressive.

      So, yeah, I think many of the folks now decrying the operations of the buffoonish scamster Netanyahu are champing at the bit for a nice Yair Lapid and a dull but stalwart Ganz to take over the reins and reinstall the blinders that have always allowed them to ignore the vicious depredations that are central to the Zionist project.

      I seldom say this, but please, let me be wrong.

      • Citizen on October 8, 2019, 10:16 pm

        Unfortunately, you’re very probably right.

  4. wondering jew on October 8, 2019, 7:11 pm

    Bibi was certainly willing to get into the limelight, what with his addressing Congress like that, so personalities do make a difference. I don’t think the American people are focused on foreign affairs for the most part. (I think Hong Kong versus China is the most interesting battle, but no one here hears loud voices from the pro Palestine left in support of Hong Kong.)

    I thought that Jesse jackson back 31 years ago during his second campaign for the presidency presaged an imminent democratic party parting of ways with zionism. two things intervened: rabin and clinton. domestically the clintons took over the democratic party, friends of israel and friends of “neoliberal imperialism war machine”. in israel rabin attempted a new approach towards the PLO and that took until the election of bibi in 2009 to calm down the excitement that israel was on a new path. however close israel came during that path, it is no longer on that path and there is no reason to believe that israel will reattempt the rabin, peres, barak, olmert, teasing of the idea of rapprochement. for right now that does not appear on the horizon. so the other element is the reassertion of the jesse jackson wing of the democratic party, now known as the progressive wing or the bernie sanders wing or the elizabeth warren wing, and that wing of the democratic party is 30 years overdue for rejecting zionism.

    • Citizen on October 8, 2019, 10:19 pm

      Yep, 30 years overdue…maybe The Squad can kickstart it, or already has?

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