Are the United States and Israel heading toward a divorce?

by John Feffer, Foreign Policy In Focus

Critics of Israel once occupied the fringes of the debate in the United States. Then, in 2007, J Street was founded as a loyal opposition to the kind of Israeli politics that received uncritical support from the U.S. mainstream. By organizing “pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans” in favor of a more enlightened U.S.-Israel relationship, J Street has opposed policies of the Israeli government without challenging the foundational principles of that country.

A more radical view, however, has been taking shape, thanks largely to the extremism of the Netanyahu government in Israel and the intransigence of a succession of U.S. governments. In 2020, influential Jewish intellectual Peter Beinart published a piece in The New York Times that effectively renounced the notion of a Jewish state in favor of a “one-state solution” in which Jews and Palestinians live together with equal rights in a single state.

blinken and netanyahu shake hands

Given a choice between liberalism and Zionism, many Americans are giving up on the latter. What started as a trickle has now become a noticeable stream, as Beinart writes in an article last month in the Times. The polling supports his analysis. Last year, Gallup revealed that sympathy among Democrats now favored Palestinians (49 percent) over Israelis (38 percent), a reversal never seen before in the polling. The gap within the Democratic Party is sharply generational. Among Democrats under the age of 35, 74 percent side with Palestinians compared to only 25 percent of those 65 and over.

Here’s an even more startling Ipsos poll, from last year. When asked about a situation in which the West Bank and Gaza remained under Israeli control, a majority of Republicans (64 percent) and Democrats (80 percent) said that they would favor Israeli democracy over its Jewishness. Without really knowing much about Zionism—most respondents in the poll either didn’t know about or were unfamiliar with the ideology—a majority of Americans have already gone down Beinart’s path.

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