Het Amerikaanse publiek staat minder onvoorwaardelijk achter Israel dan de machtige zionistische pro-‘Groot Israel’ lobby wil doen geloven. Ook is de publieke opinie overwegend tegen het aanvallen van Iran, zelfs als dit land doorgaat met het verrijken van uranium.
Dit blijkt uit een recente studie van de Chicago Council on Global Affairs, onder de aandacht gebracht door professor John Mearsheimer, mede-auteur van een veelbesproken boek over de negatieve invloed van deze lobby op het Amerikaanse buitenlands beleid.
Dat is goed nieuws voor hen, waaronder ik, die hopen dat president Obama een evenwichtig beleid kan voeren t.a.v. ‘het’ conflict in het Midden-Oosten, en die wensen dat een, potentieel catastrofale, oorlog met Iran kan worden voorkomen.
Wel bestaat er (ook) in deze een verontrustend groot verschil tussen de standpunten van de Republikeinen en Democraten (zie p. 81/82 van het eigenlijke rapport ‘Constrained Internationalism..’).
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.
This is not to say that they are hostile to Israel, because they are not. But there is no evidence to support the claim that Americans feel a bond with Israel that is so strong that it leaves their leaders with little choice but to forge a special relationship with Israel. If anything the evidence indicates that if the American people had their way, the United States would treat Israel like a normal country, much the way it treats other democracies like Britain, Germany, India, and Japan.
Consider some of the study’s main findings:…
Preference for Staying on the Sideline of Conflicts That Are Not Seen As Directly Threatening to the United States
• A majority of Americans think that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran.
• Fewer than half of Americans show a readiness to defend Israel against an attack by its neighbors.
• Four out of ten Americans think the United States has been doing more than it should to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Americans are now evenly split on whether U.S. government leaders should be ready to talk with leaders of Hamas, down from a majority in favor of this. There is no majority support for using U.S. troops to be part of an international peacekeeping force to enforce a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians…(p. 8).
Staying on the Sideline of Conflicts That Are Not Seen As Directly Threatening to the United States
There are numerous situations where the American public expresses a desire for the United States to refrain from taking an active role in conflicts. These include situations where the United States has historically been quite active.
Perhaps most striking is a possible military conflict between Iran and Israel, prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. A majority (56%) says the United States should not bring its military forces into such a conflict, with 38 percent saying it should (see Figure 14).
Contrary to the long-standing, official U.S. position, fewer than half of Americans show a readiness to defend Israel even against an unprovoked attack by a neighbor. Asked whether they would favor using U.S. troops in the event that Israel were attacked by a neighbor, only 47 percent say they would favor doing so, while 50 percent say they would oppose it…(p. 21).
A recurring question for American policymakers has been whether the United States should actively discourage democratic elections if there is a good chance that it will lead to the election of a potentially hostile Islamist party such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In a question that has not been asked previously, the American public comes down quite firmly on the side of not being involved. Respondents were asked to suppose there is a
Muslim country that is not democratic, and if it were democratic, the people would probably elect an Islamic fundamentalist leader. In these circum- stances just 5 percent favor the United States discouraging democracy, with 25 percent in favor of encouraging it and 68 percent in favor of not taking a position either way…(p. 21).
In the case of Iran, while Americans favor actions to try to stop the country from enriching uranium and developing a weapons program, there is clear hesitation to resort to military action because of the perceived dangers and limits of such a response. At this point in time, Americans favor trying to resolve the problem of Iran’s nuclear program through non-military means. More significantly, even though 54 percent now oppose diplomatic relations (up 16 points from 38% in 2002 when 58% were in favor), 62 percent favor U.S. leaders meeting and talking with Iran’s leaders.
When asked their views of what the United States should do if Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council, which
has asked it to stop enriching uranium, Americans are not immediately ready to resort to a military strike. Only 18 percent say the United States should carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear energy facilities, with 41 percent preferring to impose economic sanctions and 33 percent wanting to continue diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium (only 4% do not want the United States to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium). Consistent with their support for sanctions, 77 percent oppose engaging in trade with Iran.
When asked the same question about what the UN Security Council should do, only a few more (21%) say that it should authorize a military strike, again with more favoring economic sanctions (45%) or continuing diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium (26%, see Figure 40). This is broadly consistent with the Council survey findings in 2006 and 2008, when this question was also posed.
Yet, the question still stands as to how Americans are likely to feel if diplomatic efforts fail and Iran persists in moving toward building a nuclear weapon. Would they become more ready to undertake a military strike? First, respondents were asked to think through the likelihood of the possible outcomes of a military strike (“very likely,” “somewhat likely,” “somewhat unlikely,” or “not at all likely”). Overall, their prognosis is quite pessimistic (see Figure 41), with large majorities saying that it is likely (either “somewhat” or “very”) that a military
strike would not cause Iran to give up trying to have nuclear program (76%), would slow Iran’s nuclear program down but not stop it (80%), would cause Muslim people worldwide to become more hostile toward the United States (82%), would lead to retaliatory attacks against U.S. targets in neighboring states (82%), and would lead to retaliatory terrorist attacks in the United States itself (81%).
Seventy-four percent (74%) assume that the Iranian people would rally around their government, and 52 percent assume that the Iranian government would not lose popular support. On a somewhat positive note, 59 percent think U.S. allies would likely support the U.S. action, and 52 percent think it is likely that other countries in the region would be deterred from developing nuclear weapons.
Despite these largely pessimistic assumptions, when finally asked what the United States should do if diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions
fail to stop or slow down Iran’s nuclear program, nearly as many would favor a military strike (47%) as would oppose it (49%). Support for a strike is slightly greater among those who see the possibility of unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers as a “critical” threat, with 53 percent favoring a strike. Support for a strike is much less among those who think this threat is “important, but not critical” (31%).
In comparing the responses about the possible outcomes of a military strike among those who would favor or oppose it if all else fails, it is striking that large majorities of both those who favor and oppose a strike agree that such strikes would not lead Iran to give up trying to have a nuclear program and that strikes might slow but would not stop Iran’s program. Large majorities on both sides also agree that retaliatory attacks against U.S. targets in neighboring states and the United States itself are likely. The key difference is that those who would
favor a strike believe that a military strike would deter other countries from developing nuclear weapons (67%), while only 38 percent of those who would oppose a strike concur.
Another key difference is on the question of whether the United States could contain Iran in much the same way that it contained the Soviet Union if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon. Overall Americans lean slightly to the view that the United States would not be able to contain Iran (49% cannot be contained to 45% can be contained). Among those who would favor a strike, however, 55 percent say that Iran cannot be contained, while among those who would oppose a strike, 54 percent say that it can be.
Given the pervasive pessimism about the effectiveness of military strikes, it is not surprising that Americans show interest in an alternative approach to the problem of Iran’s nuclear program.
Americans show a readiness to consider allowing Iran to enrich uranium if they are provided assurance that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. If Iran were to allow UN inspectors permanent and full access throughout Iran to make sure it is not developing nuclear weapons, a majority of Americans (52%) believe that Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel for producing electricity. Forty-five percent (45%) are opposed (see Figure 42). This is down somewhat from 2008, when 56 percent said Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel in this circumstance, and 41 percent said they should not. (p. 46/47)..
A Strike by Israel on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities
As discussed earlier, Americans are gravely concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Yet they are also quite concerned about the possible negative impact of a military strike to try and stop it. Only a small minority favors the use of military force now, and if all efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons fail, Americans are essentially evenly divided over whether to conduct a strike.
They also appear to be very wary of being dragged into a conflict prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In this survey, conducted in June 2010, a clear majority of Americans (56%) say that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facili- ties, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran (see Figure 14 in Chapter 1).
An Attack on Israel by Its Neighbors
Americans continue to show wariness about defending Israel from an attack by its neighbors. Despite an increase in the percentage of Americans who think military conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is a critical threat (from 39% in 2008 to 45% today), Americans are divided on using U.S. troops to defend Israel if it were attacked by “its neighbors” (50% opposed, 47% in favor, see Figure 52). This question was also asked with a slightly different wording in surveys from 1990 to 2004 (if Arab forces invaded Israel). In none of these surveys was there majority support for an implicitly unilateral use of U.S. troops.
The Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
Views on U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are also rather restrained. In this survey— prior to the announcement of planned peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington, D.C., in September 2010—40 percent of Americans say the United States has been doing more than it should to resolve the conflict, with 36 percent saying the United States is doing about the right amount, and 20 percent saying the United States should be making greater efforts than it has been making. For the first time since 2002 in these surveys, there is no majority support among Americans for using U.S. troops to be part of an international peacekeeping force to enforce a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (see
Figure 52). Instead, views are evenly split (49% in favor to 49% opposed). There is also a clear decline in support for the idea that U.S. government lead- ers should be ready to talk with leaders of Hamas, now showing a nearly even split between those saying U.S. leaders should be ready to talk with leaders of Hamas (48%, down 5 points from a majority in 2008) and those saying U.S. leaders should not be ready to do this (46%).
Despite strongly negative views of the Palestinian Authority (a mean rating of 32, nearly as low as for North Korea and Iran on the 0 to 100 scale of “feelings” where 50 is neutral), two-thirds (66%) of Americans think the United States should not take any side in the Middle East conflict (28% prefer that the United States take Israel’s side and 3% want the United States to take the Palestinian’s side). There has, however, been an 8-point drop from 2004 in the percentage that does not want to take sides and an increase of 11 points in the percentage that thinks the United States should take Israel’s side (28%, up from 17% in 2004). At the same time, Americans are not in favor of Israeli set- tlements in the West Bank, a major sticking point in the conflict, with 62 percent saying Israel “should not build” these settlements.
Interestingly, when resolving the Israeli– Palestinian conflict is put in the context of a top, direct threat to the United States, namely terrorism, a majority of Americans (58%) favor making a “major effort” to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as a way to combat international terrorism. (p. 55/56)…
Israel continues to be seen as a critical ally and friend in the Middle East. Americans give Israel a very warm rating of 57 on the scale of “feelings.” This warmth trails only Great Britain, Germany, and Japan and is ahead of seventeen other coun- tries on the list. A substantial number of Americans also feel that Israel is “very important” to the United States (33% are of this opinion, with 41 percent saying “somewhat important”), which is fifth highest among eighteen countries. But Israel is somewhat surprisingly not exempt from the perceptions of diminished importance seen elsewhere. The percentage who see Israel as “very important” is down 7 points from 40 percent in 2008 (see Figure 12 in Chapter 1).
There is some tangible worry regarding the direction of relations with Israel. Although 44 percent say that relations with Israel are “staying about the same,” a very high 38 percent think relations are “worsening,” and only 12 percent think they are “improving.” At the time of this survey, relations with Israel were colored by tensions between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations over Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the passage of a UN resolution that calls for a nuclear- free Middle East and for Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This may have contributed to perceptions that relations with Israel are worsening.
American views of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict—polled prior to the planned peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington in September 2010—show a rather restrained attitude toward being involved in the conflict. Forty percent (40%) of Americans think the United States has been doing more than it should to resolve the conflict, with 36 percent saying the United States is doing about the right
amount and 20 percent saying it should be making greater efforts than it has been making. For the first time since 2002 in these surveys—again, prior to planned peace talks—there is no majority support among Americans for using U.S. troops to be part of an international peacekeeping force to enforce a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, views are evenly split (49% in favor to 49% opposed).
While Americans have strongly negative feelings toward the Palestinian Authority (32 on the 0 to 100 scale where 50 is neutral, nearly as low as for North Korea and Iran), a strong majority of Americans (66%) prefer to “not take either side” in the conflict (see Figure 70). There has, however, been an 8-point drop in this attitude from 2004 and an increase of 11 points in those saying the United States should “take Israel’s side” (28%, up from 17% in 2004). At the same time, Americans are not in favor of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a major sticking point in the conflict, with 62 percent saying Israel “should not build” these settlements. In terms of Hamas, there has a been decline in support for the idea that U.S. government leaders should be ready to talk with leaders of Hamas, now showing a nearly even split between those saying U.S. leaders should be ready to talk with the leaders of Hamas (48%, down 5 points from a majority in 2008) and those saying U.S. leaders should not be ready to do this (46%).
Interestingly, when resolution of the Israeli– Palestinian conflict is presented as a measure that could help in combating terrorism—a top, direct
hreat to the United States—a clear majority of Americans (58%) favor making a “major effort” to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as a way to combat international terrorism.
In terms of defending Israel more generally, Americans are divided. Despite an increase in the percentage of Americans who think military conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is a critical threat (from 39% in 2008 to 45% today), half of Americans do not favor using U.S. troops to defend Israel if it were attacked by “its neighbors” (50% opposed, 47% in favor). This question was also asked with a slightly different wording in surveys from 1990 to 2004 (if Arab forces invaded Israel). In none of these surveys was there majority support for using U.S. troops in this scenario..
Support for Israel
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support Israeli policies, such as further settlements in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank (41% vs. 23%), are more positive towards Israel in general, and support U.S. intervention on Israel’s behalf. Majorities of Republicans support using U.S. troops if Israel were attacked by its neighbors (60%) and bringing U.S. forces into a war with Iran on the side of Israel prompted by Israeli strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities (52%). Only 40 percent of Democrats support the former and 32 percent support the latter. In the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Democrats overwhelmingly support “not taking either side” in the conflict (80%), while only a plurality of Republicans support neutrality (47%, a 33 percentage point difference).. (p. 78).
The Chicago Council on Public Affairs poll, released on Thursday, reported 56 percent of respondents answering, “No, it shouldn’t” to the statement “If Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should or should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel.”