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Common interests unite U.S. and Israel

Common interests unite U.S. and Israel

American politics can baffle outside observers. Some issues are so devoid of controversy that speaking about them is as safe as using puppies or babies to sell your products. Everyone will nod in approval. Details aside, all candidates proudly announce the obvious. They believe in education and national security. Every would-be president wants America prosperous and strong and healthy. And almost all major politicians profess strong and unbreakable support for the state of Israel. Specifics, which matter greatly, vary between candidates, but America's commitment to a strong relationship with Israel remains one of the unique traits that define the United States.
Love fest
Like it or not, that trait remains in evidence in this election. Despite their sharp differences over many issues, including many aspects of foreign policy, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have expressed their deepest commitment to Israel's security.
Obama says "the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world."
McCain has a track record of explicitly staunch support and unwavering commitment to the principle that, "in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together."
The reasons for this love fest, according to suspicious critics, lie in the outsize influence, vast wealth and sinister power of the so-called "Jewish Lobby." The truth, however, is much less mysterious and melodramatic.
According to the respected foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead, American politicians support Israel because the American people -_ not just the Jews -_ support Israel. It's as simple as that. And it has been that way since long before the founding of modern Israel in 1948. According to Mead, Americans have always identified with the ideals of the state of Israel, sensing a profound symmetry between the two nations' mission in the world.
As a result, although Jews make up less than 2 percent of the population, pollsters show popular support for Israel has remained overwhelming. Jews, says Mead, "account for at most three percent of Israel supporters in the U.S." Pro-Israel groups are very effective, but not enough to account for the extraordinary relationship between the two countries.
And those who think "Jewish money" plays the key role forget that few countries have more money than oil-rich Arab nations that also lobby heavily in Washington. But they don't enjoy the passionate and widespread backing that Israel has throughout the United States and across the political spectrum -_ from Sen. Joe Biden's "no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden," to Gov. Sarah Palin's "Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East."
In fact, as far back as 1819, then ex-President John Adams made the first pro-Zionist declaration by an American leader when he wrote, "I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation." President Theodore Roosevelt supported Israel exactly three decades before its founding when he wrote, "It seems to me entirely proper to start a Zionist State around Jerusalem." Over the years, presidents have disagreed with Israel _ at times, vehemently _ on a number of matters (just as Israelis disagree with each other) but the relationship has survived every disagreement.
McCain and Obama propose sharply different policies, whose impact on Israel will undoubtedly be enormous. At the heart of the difference, however, are opinions on what's the best way to strengthen Israel and stabilize the region, not a challenge to the closeness of the U.S.-Israeli bond.
Ideological kinship
That bond rests on the ideological kinship between two democratic, progressive nations. But there's more. The strategic alliance gives the United States a strong presence in a crucial part of the world where leaders often don't enjoy the support of their people, and a change of government can turn an ally into an enemy. Remember America's good friend, the Shah of Iran, whose toppling brought the anti-American ayatollahs to power. In Israel, the alliance with American cannot end with a government change, because the political system - unlike individual administrations - is extremely stable.
For Israel and for the Middle East, the explicit support from America already provides security, telling hostile neighbors that they should set aside the old fantasy of destroying the Jewish state. The long-term value of American support, however, will hinge on just how much influence the United States has in the world.
As the candidates continue to proclaim their love of Israel in the final weeks of the campaign, puzzled outsiders may continue to ascribe outsize powers to small Jewish groups.
As Mead concludes, however, U.S. policy toward Israel will continue to be shaped "by the will of the American majority, not the machinations of any minority."


Updated : 2021-10-16 22:50 GMT+08:00