In order to comprehend U.S. foreign policy in general, and U.S. special ties with Israel in particular, one needs to be familiar with U.S. domestic policy and with the U.S. state of mind.
For instance, since 1776, the U.S. has never been governed by a Europe-style left-wing government. Today, the number of self-identified conservatives is twice as high as those who consider themselves to be liberal. Following the 1994 congressional Democratic defeat, President Clinton turned toward the center/right, which paved the road to his 1996 reelection and the 1998 congressional Democratic gains, in spite of the Lewinski affair. In contrast, President Obama’s decline in the polls, accentuated by the 2010 devastating defeat for Democrats, resulted from his left-leaning image.
The American state of mind is not represented by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, New York, Los Angeles, or Hollywood, but by Middle America’s flyovers, who reside in medium and small town America between the East and the West coasts. These flyovers have benefited from a tailwind, triggered by the substantial migration, during recent decades, from the Northeast to the Southwest.
In contrast to Europe — and just like in Israel — the U.S. features a critical political mass of people who cherish American exceptionalism, patriotism, tradition, religion, family values, small government, low taxes, individualism, defiance of odds, and the right to bear arms. They are anti-establishment, pro-military, anti-terror, anti-UN, scorn Europe, and are suspicious of Muslim and Arab regimes.
The U.S. is the most religious Western democracy: 90% of Americans believe in God; 85% wish to preserve “In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God”; 50% say grace regularly; 45% frequent church on Sunday; 15 million copies of the Holy Bible — which is available in most hotel rooms — are sold annually. The number of religious TV stations has grown from nine in 1974 to almost 300 in 2011; the House of Representatives starts deliberations with a prayer; presidents and other top leaders conclude speeches with “God bless America.” The American ethos also includes the three Gs: God, Guns, and Guts.
The U.S. is the only country in which 80% of the people define their core values as Judeo-Christian. The Ten Commandments — which are displayed in public buildings throughout the USA — are recognized as a key component of America’s moral foundation. Statutes of Moses are featured in the House of Representatives and in the U.S. Supreme Court. Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on the Liberty Bell; Jewish terms are manifested — in Hebrew — on the official seals of Yale and Columbia universities and Dartmouth College; the Star of David is visible — above the eagle — in the official U.S. seal, and the U.S. map includes thousands of locations bearing Biblical names.
Therefore, most Americans do not consider the Jewish state a typical foreign policy issue, but also a domestic issue, closely related to America’s core values. The current stormy “Arab Winter,” along with U.S. frustration with NATO’s conduct in the battle against Islamic terrorism, spotlights Israel as America’s only stable, credible, capable, democratic, and unconditional ally in the Middle East, and probably in the world. Israel has been America’s battle-proven and cost-effective laboratory for military systems, generating for the U.S. defense industries thousands of modifications and upgrades worth mega billions of dollars and expanding U.S. employment, exports, and research and development bases. Israel has shared with the U.S. its experience in battling improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, and suicide bombers, which has spared American lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
Israel has been the outpost of Western democracies in an uncertain, unpredictable, violent region which is vital to critical Western interests relating to economics and security. In 1970, Israel’s posture of deterrence repelled Syria’s invasion of Jordan, which threatened Saudi Arabia and other oil producing Gulf states. In 2011, Israel constitutes — according to the late General Alexander Haig — America’s largest aircraft carrier, which does not require a single American on board, cannot be sunk, and saves the American taxpayer some $20 billion annually. The special affinity toward the Jewish state has prevailed since the arrival in 1620 of William Bradford’s “Mayflower,” which departed from “the modern day Egypt” — Britain — crossed “the modern day Red Sea” — the Atlantic Ocean — and arrived in “the modern day Promised Land” — America.
The enduring, solid support of enhanced U.S.-Israel ties has been uniquely bottom-to-top-driven, nourished by popular sentiments, sometimes in defiance of temporary tenants in the White House. According to a May 26 CNN poll, 67% support Israel over the Palestinian Authority. According to a February 2011 Gallup poll, 68% consider Israel an ally of the U.S. According to a February 2011 Rasmussen Report poll, most Americans oppose foreign aid to Arab countries but support foreign aid to Israel. And, according to an April 2010 Quinnipiac poll, 66% would like President Obama to improve his attitude toward Israel. In fact, most legislators on Capitol Hill — who constitute a co-determining, equal in power branch of government — do not share Obama’s attitude toward Israel. They have been a bastion of support for the Jewish state.
U.S.-Israel relations have been based on a unique infrastructure of shared values, joint interests, and mutual threats. The foundation of shared values — which highlights the cradle of Jewish history — has moderated tensions/crises between the leaders of both countries, preventing a long term rift. Israeli prime ministers leveraged this unique infrastructure from 1948-1992, highlighting the historical Jewish deed to the land of Israel, fending off occasional pressures by American presidents, while systematically enhancing U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation.
Will Israeli leaders realize in 2011 that steadfastness over the cradle of Jewish history, Judea and Samaria — simultaneously with the demonstration of Israel’s unique contribution to U.S. national security — is consistent with the state of mind of most American citizens and most American legislators? Will they realize that standing by the cradle of Jewish history may result in the loss of short-term popularity, but in the significant gain of long-term respect, which is essential for the enhancement of strategic relations?