“We’ve seen for quite a while that young people and Democrats are less supportive than others,” Mellman said. “That doesn’t mean they’re anti-Israel. It means they’re less pro-Israel, less knowledgeable.”
Mellman said Democrats were likelier than Republicans to recoil at the images generated by the recent Gaza fighting.
“The threshold among Democrats for the use of military force is much higher,” he said. “That’s a function of general attitudes toward war, and what many Democrats think have been failed enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The congressional staffers interviewed by JTA talked about several ways to increase pro-Israel sentiment among their ranks, such as recruiting young leaders for trips to Israel. They also said it’s vital not to assume ideological identification with Israel just because Israel and the United States have shared values.
One staffer noted the effectiveness of Israeli U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer’s practice during the war of beginning meetings with congressional staffers by displaying a phone app that sounds each time an incoming rocket alarm is sounded in Israel – and leaving it on for the duration of the meeting, during which it would sound several times.
“These are staffers who grew up in an antiwar climate and are not seeing the same threats the Israeli people do every day,” the staffer said. “Hearing the red alert on his phone, that really speaks to staffers and members.”