Editorial

Israel Is Losing the Democrats' Support on Netanyahu’s Watch

File Photo: President Donald Trump welcomes visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A comprehensive survey by the Pew Research Center on the American public’s positions regarding Israel was published on Wednesday, again reflecting significant differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Two thirds of Democrats polled said they had a negative view of Israel’s government under Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli public may not be sufficiently familiar with these figures, but the Democratic presidential candidates certainly are, and in recent weeks they have been competing with each other in their blatant attacks on Netanyahu.

>> Read more: The Trump-Netanyahu axis pours high-octane fuel on the fire consuming Democrats’ support for Israel | Analysis

Senator Bernie Sanders described the prime minister as part of an international alliance of autocratic rulers, former Congress member Beto O’Rourke called him a racist and even pro-Israel senators blasted Netanyahu for the political alignment he initiated with the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power).

The figures show a clear and troubling tendency: On Netanyahu’s watch, Israel is gradually becoming an issue that automatically divides the two parties, like guns and abortion. The Republicans, Donald Trump’s party, have one position on the issue. The Democrats, who currently control the House of Representatives and whose presidential candidates won the largest share of the votes in six out of the last seven election campaigns, have the opposite view.

The American and Israeli media cite mainly Congress members from the Democratic Party’s left, who provide especially critical quotes. But what Israel’s various delegations in the United States really fear is a tide against Israel’s government in the party’s central, moderate stream – including among politicians who have visited Israel and used to support it openly.

This trend can be reversed, but four more years of a rightist-religious government in Israel, which will eliminate any chance of compromise with the Palestinians and bring Israel closer to becoming an Orthodox halakhic state, is expected to exacerbate relations even further.

The pro-Israel lobby in Washington has relied over the years on bipartisan support. This era is apparently over. Netanyahu has Trump; Israel has no future in the party currently supported by most of the young people in America.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.