For most Americans, the past year has been a painful reminder that the national interests of the United States and Israel do not neatly coincide. After all, three consecutive American presidents (Clinton with Labor Prime Minister Barak, Bush with Kadima PM Olmert and Obama with Likud's Netanyahu) to failed to secure a peace agreement creating an independent Palestine. At the end of day, Israelis will decide whether their security depends on a one-state solution, a two-state solution or an indefinite perpetuation of the status quo in which the Jewish state accepts a "manageable" level of violence as the price of occupying the disputed lands west of the Jordan River.
That doesn't mean Americans have to be happy with what Israelis decide. And to be sure, Israelis--especially in right-wing parties and among the settler movement--haven't been shy about voicing their opposition to the peace process pushed by the Obama administration. In January, the Yesha Council representing Israel's West Bank settlements aired a scathing video suggesting Secretary of State John Kerry wants Israelis to wipe their asses with a porcupine. In February, a Knesset member accused Kerry of anti-Semitism, while a group of far-right rabbis charged that he had "declared war on God" with his "incessant efforts to expropriate integral parts of our Holy Land." Then in April, Kerry was attacked for saying in private what previous Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert said in public: that without a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel risked becoming an "apartheid" state.
But the most telling complaint may have come fromIsraeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
"American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.""Misplaced obsession and messianic fervor" seems like a particularly inappropriate choice of words to direct at an American Secretary of State. After all, surveys show that while 44 percent of Americans--and only 40 percent of American Jews--believe Israel was given by God to the Jewish people, among Israeli Jews the share identifying themselves as God's Chosen People reaches 70 percent. As it turns out, far and away the group most dedicated to the proposition that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people is American white evangelical Protestants. And their End Times story doesn't end well for Jews anywhere.
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In its October 2013 analysis, the Pew Research Center reported that at a whopping 82 percent, "A majority of white evangelicals believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, compared with 40% of American Jews who believe the same." But just as jaw-dropping as the fact that white evangelical are twice as likely as American Jews (40 percent), and five times more like than "Jews of no religion" (16 percent) are the implication for U.S. policy:
White evangelical Protestants also are more likely than Jews to favor stronger U.S. support of Israel. Among Jews, 54% say American support of the Jewish state is "about right," while 31% say the U.S. is not supportive enough. By contrast, more white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel (46%) than say support is about right (31%).Not possible and for many evangelicals, not desirable. After all, in their eschatology, the conversion of some Jews--and the slaughter of the rest--at Armageddon is part and parcel to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ.
White evangelical Protestants are less optimistic than Jews about the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution to conflict in the region. When asked if there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, six-in-ten American Jews (61%) say yes, while one-third say no. Among white evangelical Protestants, 42% say Israel and an independent Palestinian state can coexist peacefully, while 50% say this is not possible.
For Christian Zionists like Michele Bachmann ("Support for Israel is handed down by God and if the United States pulls back its support, America will cease to exist"), Rick Perry ("As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel") and Mike Huckabee ("no such thing as a Palestinian"), Israel serves merely as a means to an end. In that telling, it is a divinely required stepping-stone to the End Times conversion (and much larger slaughter) of the Jews that will accompany the Second Coming of Christ. And that has a real impact on foreign policy. As the controversial head of the Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee, explained in 2006:
"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."With friends like that, Israel doesn't need enemies. And with Republicans like that, it's no wonder American Jews continue to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Other recent surveys of American Jews confirm what the exit polls tell us every four years: the Jewish electorate that is perhaps the single most liberal voting bloc in the United States. A poll conducted two years ago by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University revealed why the Jewish community continues to reliably vote for Democrats, "election cycle after election cycle":
The poll, which has a four percent margin of error, also found high support among Jews not just for social causes they have long championed including gay marriage (68 percent support) and access to legal abortion (63 percent favor) , but on economic issues such as taxation. Sixty-five percent said they support raising income tax for those who earn above $200,000 a year and 62 percent said they thought the power of financial institutions pose a threat to the United States.As Haaretz noted in reporting on the survey, "Israel related issues seem to have little effect on Jewish voters' decision in choosing between Obama and Romney." That finding echoed the results of an April 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization:
The survey also found that 73 percent of those polled favored the government requiring private health insurance to cover birth control.
A majority of 51% pointed to the economy as the issue most important to their vote, followed by gaps between rich and poor (15%), health care (10%) and the federal deficit (7%). Only 4% of Jewish voters said Israel was the most important issue for them when deciding who should get their vote. Even when asked to name their second-most-important issue, Jewish voters gave the issue of Israel only marginal importance.Those numbers would also suggest that insulting the President of the United States and his Secretary of State won't earn Israelis much good will among American Jews. (The rising proportion of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. will help.) As for American evangelicals, the people looking forward to the End Times conversion of 144,000 Jews and the killing of the rest, that is another matter.
The data would suggest that the Republicans' focus on attacking both Obama's record on Israel and his troubled relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was having little, if any, traction.
After all, they're the ones with the messianic fervor.