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Middle Eastern issues will likely play an unprecedently important role in the U.S. mid-term elections less than a half-year away. Three topics top the agenda: the course of the Iraq war, the proper response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the soaring price of fuel.
Despite their prominence, these are momentary issues, where voters will make decisions on the basis of transient circumstances and without clearly defined differences between two major parties; what is the Democratic position on Iraq, anyway, or the Republican one on Iran?
A fourth Middle-Eastern issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, though less high-profile this year, has deeper electoral significance. It is a perennial topic that helps define the two parties.
The U.S.-Israel bond is the most special “special relationship” in the world today. In many areas – foreign policy, strategic cooperation, economic ties, intellectual connections, religious bonds and intervention in one another’s domestic politics – the two countries have unusual if not unique relations.
This reaches down even to local politics; as a New Yorker article put it in 1994, at times “it seems that the Middle East – or, at any rate, Israel – is a division” of New York.
In addition, a significant number of Americans (Jews, Evangelicals, Arabs, Muslims, anti-Semites, leftists) vote according to Israel policies.
Since Israel came into existence in 1948, Democrats and Republicans have changed places in their attitudes toward Israel. In the first era, 1948-70, Democrats sympathized more with the Jewish state and Republicans distinctly less so. Whereas Democrats emphasized spiritual bonds, Republicans tended to see Israel as a weak state and a liability in the Cold War.
The second era began in about 1970 and lasted for 20 years. In the aftermath of Israel’s extraordinary victory in the Six Day War, Richard Nixon, a Republican, came to see Israel as a military powerhouse and useful ally. This new regard rendered Republicans as positive toward Israel as the Democrats.
Noting this reality, I concluded in a 1985 research piece: “Liberals and conservatives support Israel versus the Arabs in similar proportions.”
As the Cold War ended in 1990, a third era began. Democrats cooled to Israel and Republicans further warmed to it. The Left made the Palestinian cause a centerpiece of its worldview (think of the Durban conference in 2001), while the Right deepened its religious and political alignment with Israel.
This trend has become increasingly evident. In 2000, survey research commissioned by the left-wing, anti-Israel activist James Zogby found “a significant partisan split” on the Arab-Israeli conflict, with Republicans significantly more pro-Israel than Democrats.
For example, asked the question “With regard to the Middle East, how do you feel the next president should relate to the region?” 22 percent of Republicans and only 7 percent of Democrats said he should be pro-Israel.
Recent research by the Gallup Poll finds that 72 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats sympathize more with the Israelis than Palestinians. A detailed look at this same data finds more dramatic results, with conservative Republicans over five times more sympathetic to Israel than liberal Democrats.
The Democratic coolness toward Israel fits into a larger pattern of conspiracy theories about neoconservatives and anti-Jewish outbursts by such party luminaries as Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney and James Moran. One observer, Sher Zieve, concludes that among Democrats, “anti-Semitism is and has been on the rise” for some time.
The current trend appears to be deepening, with an attendant sorting out of Jews and Arabs/ Muslims in American politics. This leads me to expect that Muslims, Arabs and others hostile to Israel will increasingly vote Democratic, even as Jews and those friendly to the Jewish state increasingly vote Republican.
About the Author: Daniel Pipes is a world-renowned Middle East and Islam expert. He is President of the Middle East Forum. His articles appear in many newspapers. He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, Pepperdine, the U.S. Naval War College, and the University of Chicago. He is a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace and other institutions. His website is DanielPipes.org.
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Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state
Blaming Israel for the violence in Gaza, he ends up justifying Hamas’s terrorism.
In the Thirties it was common for anti-Semites to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”
“This arbitrary ban is an ugly stain on our democracy, and it also undermines the rule of law.”
We take US “aid” for psychological reasons-if we have an allowance, that means we have a father.
ZIM Piraeus isn’t Israeli-owned or flagged, incidentally, it is Greek operated.
Foolish me, thinking the goals were the destruction of Hamas thereby giving peace a real chance.
The free-spirted lifestyle didn’t hold your interest; the needs of your people did.
And why would the U.S. align itself on these issues with Turkey and Qatar, longtime advocates of Hamas’s interests?
Several years ago the city concluded that the metzitzah b’peh procedure created unacceptable risks for newborns in terms of the transmission of neo-natal herpes through contact with a mohel carrying the herpes virus.
The world wars caused unimaginable anguish for the Jews but God also scripted a great glory for our people.
We were quite disappointed with many of the points the secretary-general offered in response.
Judging by history, every time Hamas rebuilds their infrastructure, they are stronger than before.
Daniel Pipes’s websites cannot be accessed through the British Library’s system. Why? Intolerance.
As U.S. credibility and stature diminish, the president and his secretaries of state and defense engage in eloquent denial.
BBC: Gaza militants launch missiles at Tel Aviv in 1st rocket attack on Israeli capital since 1991 Gulf War.
In general, the regions these days hosts unchanging, repetitious and dreary news.
Oman will grant Iran a strategic location on a mountain overlooking the whole gulf region.
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