American public opinion and the special relationship with Israel

John Mearsheimer writes:

There is no question that the United States has a relationship with Israel that has no parallel in modern history. Washington gives Israel consistent, almost unconditional diplomatic backing and more foreign aid than any other country. In other words, Israel gets this aid even when it does things that the United States opposes, like building settlements. Furthermore, Israel is rarely criticized by American officials and certainly not by anyone who aspires to high office. Recall what happened last year to Charles Freeman, who was forced to withdraw as head of the National Intelligence Council because he had criticized certain Israeli policies and questioned the merits of the special relationship.

Steve Walt and I argue that there is no good strategic or moral rationale for this special relationship, and that it is largely due to the enormous influence of the Israel lobby. Critics of our claim maintain that the extremely tight bond between the two countries is the result of the fact that most Americans feel a special attachment to Israel. The American people, so the argument goes, are so deeply committed to supporting Israel generously and unreservedly that politicians of all persuasions have no choice but to support the special relationship.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has just released a major study of how the American public thinks about foreign policy. It is based on a survey of 2500 Americans, who were asked a wide variety of questions, some of which have bearing on Israel. Their answers make clear that most Americans are not deeply committed to Israel in any meaningful way. There is no love affair between the American people and Israel.

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1 thought on “American public opinion and the special relationship with Israel

  1. delia ruhe

    You have to give Mearsheimer and Walt a lot of credit. They just keep plugging away at the statistics, even though they know that the myth of American popular support for Israel wins out over the facts every time. The Lobby drives the “special relationship,” not tax-paying, voting Americans. Every house in the U.S. could go into foreclosure, every worker could be eating at a soup kitchen, but Israel would still be sucking up 3 billion dollars a year (borrowed from China), plus all kinds of freebee war toys from Washington. That’s how much the Israel Lobbyists care about America. And when America is sucked dry, there are other nations Israel can blackmail–is already blackmailing–Canada, Australia, and Germany, just to name the three whose Israel-lobby news I’ve been closely following.

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