A new Pew poll found that 49 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israel, as opposed to 12 percent favoring the Palestinians and another 12 percent remaining neutral.
If the Republicans have been taken over by the Tea Party and have purged their moderates, Israeli conservatives have created their own Tea Party. Netanyahu’s Likud Party has ousted the liberals and moderates from its leadership ranks—including those who oppose war with Iran—leaving an extreme radical right wing that opposes a two-state solution, and advocates blatantly racist laws that discriminate against Arabs.
Netanyahu, whose top adviser until recently was a Republican operative, all but endorsed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the last election. Romney portrayed himself as a better friend of Israel than Obama, and said the president had “thrown Israel under the bus.” Since Obama demanded that Israel halt settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli Prime Minister has publicly disrespected the nation’s first black president, not unlike numerous Republican lawmakers. Netanyahu even disrespected Obama while speaking before Congress at the invitation of the Republican leadership, and made demands of the commander-in-chief as if he were the hired help.
Meanwhile, pro-peace, pro-human rights groups in the U.S., Israel and Palestine struggle to be heard.
“There is no time left to walk softly and hope for the best,” said Rabbi Capers Funnye, cousin of the first lady and head of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, the nation’s largest African-American Jewish congregation. Speaking in 2009 after Inauguration Day, Funnye pleaded with the new president to make peace between the Palestinians and Israelis a top priority: “As Jewish clergy, we pledge to mobilize our people behind your leadership for a mutually acceptable two-state solution. We pledge to support you through difficult, trying times and to celebrate with you when the job is done.”
President Obama’s peace efforts were stalled in his first term, and we can reasonably say that being a black president played a role. Some people have a problem accepting black leadership. But there is reason for hope. The president received 70 percent of the Jewish-American vote, and overwhelming support among Arab- and Muslim-Americans. Further, a recent poll from the liberal pro-Israel, pro-peace group J Street found that Jewish Americans want the U.S. to play an active role in resolving the Mideast conflict, and believe the economy and healthcare are far more important issues than Iran or Israel.
As Obama attempts to woo the Israeli people this week, a weakened Netanyahu has formed a coalition government with moderates, which could force him into peace negotiations. Polls have found most Israelis rejecting war with Iran, and a majority of Israelis and Palestinians supporting a two-state solution, however dim the prospects may seem to them.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove