Media Mention via Al-Jazeera English

Support for Israel ‘continues to drop’ among US liberals, youth

In February 2017, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked expressed concern about "decreasing support for Israel in the Democratic party", telling her Jewish American audience that the problem was "a strategic issue" for Israel.

"I couldn't sleep after I saw a poll two weeks ago", she added.

A new US poll on the same topic will not help Shaked rest easy. The results indicate that key trends identified in recent years show no signs of slowing; Israel's reputation is deteriorating among demographics such as Democrats, younger voters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

The fact that the US public's view towards Israel remains positive overall masks an increasingly partisan divide; the Economist/YouGov poll found that only 25 percent of Democrat-voters consider Israel an "ally" of the US, compared with 57 percent of Republicans.

As Israeli newspaper Haaretz observed, the poll "shows that support for Israel is directly co-related to gender, age, economic status and political outlook. It is strongest among older, well-to-do, conservative white men and weakest among young, liberal, minorities and women".

But are such polls a genuine cause for anxiety among Israel's supporters? "There certainly is a segment of the Jewish Israeli public that is concerned with the country's declining reputation," Edo Konrad, an Israeli journalist for +972 Magazine told Al Jazeera.

"But the majority of Israeli Jews have either grown apathetic to the political situation writ large, or support the Netanyahu government's lurch towards hyper-nationalism," Konrad said.

Partisan divide

This lurch is one of the drivers for a "partisan divide" towards Israel and the Palestinians that the Pew Research Centre declared in January to be "now wider than at any point since 1978" – a divide that is slowly changing the political landscape in the US.

Bernie Sanders' bid for the Democratic Party leadership was one example of a change in discourse about Israel - the polarised response to Donald Trump's nomination of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel was another.

These developments are the consequences of different factors, from years of grassroots activism on Palestine, to the legacy of Netanyahu's efforts to back Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, and undermine Barack Obama's Iran negotiations.

In addition, as Brookings Institution scholar Tamara Cofman Wittes and former US envoy Daniel Shapiro noted in January, "some Americans have come to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of human rights".

"In recent years and months", Zena Agha, a New York-based US Policy Fellow for Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian think-tank, told Al Jazeera, "support for Israel has become a partisan issue with many liberals not only questioning Israeli actions in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, but also interrogating blind support for Israel itself.

"It does represent a genuine problem for Israel, who has put all its eggs in one basket - a basket which dangles precariously on the arm of the far right," Agha said.

This embrace of the far right is taking place both at the level of activism - for example, the invitation extended to former football hooligan and Islamophobic campaigner Tommy Robinson by US-based pro-Israel groups - as well as at state-level.

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