My recent post on Mitt Romney’s “tough talk” on Israel was only one side of the coin. On Friday, before Romney’s trip, Obama signed the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, increasing military ties between the two countries. A Haaretz blog points out that this is largely political and that the act itself won’t do a whole lot, but a few key assumptions deserve scrutiny:
1) Obviously this was political, since Obama had Jewish senators and leaders of AIPAC by his side during the signing. What does it say if the way our politicians try to get the Jewish vote is by showing how much they believe in giving military aid to Israel? Iran is consistently put out as the main threat to Israel, and thus made to justify all this military aid. But as Losang made an excellent point of in a recent post, even the US military sees Iran’s military as largely defensive, not offensive. A terrible regime to be sure, but they are not the lunatics they are made out to be. But if you can portray the Iranians as part of the irrational, Islamofascist, anti-Semitic conspiracy, then the US becomes the savior of Israel through massive military assistance. Is this really the only way to get the Jewish vote?
2) The US-Israel relationship is based on military (and economic) ties. Is military aid really going to make Israel safer? Israel has far more power militarily than the Arab world combined and the message that is sent when giving more aid is “The US and Israel will dominate these region with force.” So the Arab world can do what we say or face the consequences. This results in some very interesting trends in Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institution released polls they did of the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates) in 2011, which found the following:
- When asked “What two countries do you think are the biggest threat to you?” 71% said Israel, 59% said the US, and only 18% said Iran. 59% view the US either “somewhat” unfavorably or “very” unfavorably.
- When asked which leader outside one’s own country you admire the most, a plurarity of 22% said Erdogon of Turkey, 13% said Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and 13% said Ahmadinajad of Iran. Obama came in at 4%, which sadly couldn’t even beat Saddam Hussein at 6%, who has been dead for several years.
- A 64% majority say Iran has the right to develop a nuclear program, even though a 52% majority think it is for nuclear weapons and not for peaceful purposes. A 35% plurality think nuclear weapons would have a negative impact on the Middle East.
- Perhaps most telling of all, respondents were asked to pick two items from the following list as what they thought were driving US policy in the Middle East. Next to each item is the percentage who chose each factor: controlling oil (53%), protecting Israel (44%), weakening the Muslim world (32%), preserving regional and global dominance (29%), promoting peace and stability (8%), fighting terrorism (8%), preventing the spread of nuclear weapons (7%), spreading human rights (5%), and promoting democracy (5%).
- Moreover, it is not some irrational hatred of Jews that leads to these attitudes. 67% say they are ready for peace with Israel if Israel is willing to return the 1967 territories, including East Jerusalem.
What this all means is that what is called US support for Israel is progressively alienating the Arab population, who in some areas at least (oil especially) seem to understand motivations for US policy better than the US population. That such a serious issue is campaign fodder is horrendous.