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Washington - Analysis: Israel Wins U.S. Support On Gaza But Differences Remain

Published on: November 24, 2012 11:03 PM
By: Reuters
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FILE - A handout photo provided by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 21 November 2012 shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Jerusalem, 21 November 2012, after her talks with Palestinian Authority officials in Rammallah.  EPAFILE - A handout photo provided by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 21 November 2012 shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Jerusalem, 21 November 2012, after her talks with Palestinian Authority officials in Rammallah.  EPA

Washington - As conflict erupted in Gaza last week, Israel’s officials and supporters embarked on what proved a successful diplomatic and media campaign to ensure the United States remained right behind them.

Israel’s ambassador to Washington Michael Oren became a regular fixture on cable news channels and talk shows. Pro-Israel lobby groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israel Project bombarded journalists with e-mails offering footage of Hamas rocket strikes and interviews with ordinary Israelis in the line of fire.

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After a year of increasingly public disagreements over how to tackle Iran, relations between the Obama Administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government were perhaps worse than at any time in recent memory.

But the level of U.S. backing for Israel in the last week, both Israel’s supporters and independent analysts say, shows both the depth of ties between the two countries and the level of influence Israel’s supporters can exert when the country feels threatened.

Few doubt there will be differences ahead, particularly when dealing with Iran returns to the top of the agenda. But for now, Israeli officials and supporters simply say they are satisfied with the level of support received over Gaza.

“I think you’ve seen a very strong response… standing resolutely with Israel,” says Josh Block, chief executive of the Israel Project, a Washington-based pressure group that has long pushed for greater U.S. support and a tougher line against its enemies. “It’s a reminder of ... how lasting the special relationship is. This is about more than the personal ties between two leaders.”

Widely seen as having tried to nudge this year’s U.S. presidential election against Barack Obama and towards Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Netanyahu seems keen to repair relations. On Thursday, he praised Obama for his “unwavering support.”

In a CNN/ORC poll conducted over last weekend, 57 percent of Americans said they believed Israel was justified in taking military action compared to 25 percent who opposed it.

But Gaza may be almost the only issue on which the two countries genuinely and popularly agree.

Beyond differences over Iran, many Democrats in particular - as well as liberal members of the U.S. Jewish community, which makes up two percent of the total population - have expressed frustration over Israeli settlement building on the West Bank and the growing influence of Orthodox and hardline parties.

“Of course, during a war many - though by no means all - parts of American society will rally round Israel,” says Ariel Ratner, a former Obama Administration political appointee and now fellow at the Truman National Security Project. “But potential problems loom large in the future if Israel doesn’t address them.”

URGING RESTRAINT?

A spokesman for the U.N. mission of the Palestinian Authority - which administers the West Bank and lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007 - would not comment on U.S. media coverage of the war or the relationship between Israel and Washington.

But he said Palestinians viewed the entire Israeli campaign as a deliberate distraction from their bid for nationhood at the United Nations. “We believe they would try anything to stop this,” the spokesman said, asking not to be identified.

The United States may have been influential in urging Israeli restraint. According to Israeli officials, Obama phoned Netanyahu at the beginning of the conflict to say the United States would rather not see a ground invasion of Gaza like that during its 2008-9 war.

That may have helped avoid escalation and casualties on the scale of that war, which killed well over 1,000 people, almost all in Gaza. Israeli officials say Netanyahu always hoped to avoid another ground campaign.

Four Israeli civilians and two soldiers were killed by rocket fire from Gaza during the latest conflict. Palestinian casualties were much higher - 163, according to local officials. While Israel used a much greater tonnage of explosions than Hamas, it says it used precision munitions and went to great length to avoid collateral damage even as Hamas fired from densely populated areas.

Israel’s supporters say they have been able to use a variety of techniques - from traditional newspaper editorials to Twitter and Facebook - to get their message across.

“How people get information has changed and traditional media no longer has a monopoly,” says Israel Project’s Block. “That presents challenges and opportunities. You’ve seen Israeli officials making their case - echoing the views of most Americans - very persuasively through both social media and traditional outlets.”

IRAN DIFFERENCES LOOM

Pro-Israeli groups have long used a similar approach to raise awareness of their worries over Tehran’s nuclear program, but with perhaps less success. U.S. voters might like their leader’s pro-Israeli, but there is little enthusiasm inside or outside Washington for more major wars.

“I think events in Gaza have heightened public sympathy for Israel, and that may last for some time,” says Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. “That may make it more difficult for Obama to push for concessions on the peace process with the Palestinians, but I don’t think it wins the Israelis anything on Iran.”

On one level, there seems little difference in position between those in Washington and their Israeli counterparts. Both want ever tightening sanctions and both nations have co-operated heavily on covert action to slow Tehran’s alleged nuclear development. The United States says it will not allow Tehran to reach “breakout capacity” to build a bomb, while Israel says its “red line” is the less well defined “nuclear capability.”

Israel’s repeated threats this year to take matters into its own hands and strike nuclear facilities directly, however, were seen by some, in the Obama Administration in particular, as a clear attempt to influence U.S. policy. Israeli officials say military action would only be a last resort, but a nuclear Iran would simply be too great a threat and they might simply have no choice.

More attempts to push U.S. policymakers around, however, could just be counter-productive.

“It’s important that Israelis understand the exact nature of the damage caused by Netanyahu’s involvement in the U.S. election and general treatment of Obama,” says Truman Project’s Ratner. “The real problem for Israel is that very important American constituencies, including many young people and segments of the Jewish community, the media, military and next generation of Democratic party leadership, have been disturbed by general trends in Netanyahu’s Israel.”


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Read Comments (29)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 24, 2012 at 11:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Why don't we all take a moment off, to thank President Obama for his support of Israel this past week. Do you think some of our other administrations would have done the same? I don't think so.... just think of James Baker, Jimmy Carter etc etc.... all those that constantly gave Israel a hard time, including threats to withhold arms to the Jewish state. Obama has given Israel all the arms they've asked for, these past 4 years. Stop thrashing him ! Where is your Hakoras Hatov (Thank You)?
Cut it out already, all you Obama despisors.
I can't help but think that all you good Brooklyn , Lakewood etc. boys, after growing up in households with those phrases 'the Shvartze this , and the Shvartze that' are anything but plain ol' racists, no matter all your denials.
Shalom

2

 Nov 24, 2012 at 11:49 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Says:

Why don't we all take a moment off, to thank President Obama for his support of Israel this past week. Do you think some of our other administrations would have done the same? I don't think so.... just think of James Baker, Jimmy Carter etc etc.... all those that constantly gave Israel a hard time, including threats to withhold arms to the Jewish state. Obama has given Israel all the arms they've asked for, these past 4 years. Stop thrashing him ! Where is your Hakoras Hatov (Thank You)?
Cut it out already, all you Obama despisors.
I can't help but think that all you good Brooklyn , Lakewood etc. boys, after growing up in households with those phrases 'the Shvartze this , and the Shvartze that' are anything but plain ol' racists, no matter all your denials.
Shalom

I couldn't agree with you more. I voted for Romney and still know that Obama has really been pretty decent with Israel. Hey, as good as Bibi is, he can come off as an instigator at times.

3

 Nov 25, 2012 at 12:02 AM Torahjew Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

I couldn't agree with you more. I voted for Romney and still know that Obama has really been pretty decent with Israel. Hey, as good as Bibi is, he can come off as an instigator at times.

Be brave show off your name you rino

4

 Nov 25, 2012 at 12:03 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Says:

Why don't we all take a moment off, to thank President Obama for his support of Israel this past week. Do you think some of our other administrations would have done the same? I don't think so.... just think of James Baker, Jimmy Carter etc etc.... all those that constantly gave Israel a hard time, including threats to withhold arms to the Jewish state. Obama has given Israel all the arms they've asked for, these past 4 years. Stop thrashing him ! Where is your Hakoras Hatov (Thank You)?
Cut it out already, all you Obama despisors.
I can't help but think that all you good Brooklyn , Lakewood etc. boys, after growing up in households with those phrases 'the Shvartze this , and the Shvartze that' are anything but plain ol' racists, no matter all your denials.
Shalom

Do not make fun of others when you hide your name what are you afraid of you are just a liberal hack who supported obama when he told Israel to go back to the 67' aushwitz borders

5

 Nov 25, 2012 at 12:11 AM common-sense Says:

Reply to #1  
Says:

Why don't we all take a moment off, to thank President Obama for his support of Israel this past week. Do you think some of our other administrations would have done the same? I don't think so.... just think of James Baker, Jimmy Carter etc etc.... all those that constantly gave Israel a hard time, including threats to withhold arms to the Jewish state. Obama has given Israel all the arms they've asked for, these past 4 years. Stop thrashing him ! Where is your Hakoras Hatov (Thank You)?
Cut it out already, all you Obama despisors.
I can't help but think that all you good Brooklyn , Lakewood etc. boys, after growing up in households with those phrases 'the Shvartze this , and the Shvartze that' are anything but plain ol' racists, no matter all your denials.
Shalom

You try to paint those who are opposed to President Obama as bigots, but you have revealed that you are the real bigot. Your classification of "good Brooklyn, Lakewood, etc., boys" condemns that entire group as racist. Classification of a group such as you do is the essence of bigotry. This idea that opposition to Obama's middle east policy is racist is hogwash. The fact is that Obama's belief that settlement activity is the most important issue in the Middle East shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the Arab-Israel conflict. His view that Israel must return to the pre-1967 lines is dangerous to Israel. He lacks a fundamental understanding of the Middle East conflict. This has nothing to do with his race. If you want to see bigotry, look in the mirror. As for Gaza, yes, we should thank the President for his support. But in light of his general ideas on the Arab-Israeli conflict, we should still be wary.

6

 Nov 25, 2012 at 12:54 AM Anonymous Says:

Obama fights for the common man. I think he is going to do his best to solve the situation in Israel as best he can in 4 years. Either way, The future does not belong to the sick. It belongs to the dignified. Obama comes across as a perfect wise soul in a time of need. I await his next moves on this matter.

7

 Nov 25, 2012 at 04:57 AM thechef88 Says:

Why don't we all just thank the president for a job well done, without all this other jibberish.

8

 Nov 25, 2012 at 05:25 AM A Real Torah Jew Says:

Reply to #3  
Torahjew Says:

Be brave show off your name you rino

Hey, so-called Torah-Jew. I'm the # 1 responder on this site.
Calling people names is really a Torah-Jew?
Not having an ounce of Hakoras Hatov is really a Torah-Jew?
Putting all the onus on Obama, when so many other administrations did so much worse for Israel is really a Torah-Jew?
Remembering the hatred of most Jews of Nixon (who later in the Yom Kippur war saved Israel by sending it arms) vs Kennedy (who most Jews loved) is only famous for his infamous words a mere 15 years after the Shoah ("Ich bin ein Berliner") made all those Jews Torah-Jews?
The adoring fans of Truman , who recognized Israel, and then promptly put an embargo to any arms to it, were really a Torah-Jew?
Spare me your hateful words, oh great Torah-Jews !

9

 Nov 25, 2012 at 07:47 AM mythoughts Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

Obama fights for the common man. I think he is going to do his best to solve the situation in Israel as best he can in 4 years. Either way, The future does not belong to the sick. It belongs to the dignified. Obama comes across as a perfect wise soul in a time of need. I await his next moves on this matter.

"The future does not belong to the sick. It belongs to the dignified". Huh? I think you've been smoking one of Obama's funny cigarettes.

10

 Nov 25, 2012 at 08:06 AM Anonymous Says:

Don't be a kefuye tova.

When it has come to actions, Obama has stood with Israel 100% of the time.

Stop listening to the Republican propaganda.

He stood with Israel 100% during this recent war.

He is opposed to the Palestinian moves at the UN.

What more do you want from him?

It's seriously time to grow up and stop listening to Messers. Beck, Limbaugh, Levin, and Hannity.

Think for yourself.

11

 Nov 25, 2012 at 08:06 AM Yossel Says:

Every Republican president has called for the '67 lines as a basis of negotiation. Dubya even referenced the '49 armistice lines at one time. So how in the world is Obama's policy any worse than the Republicans you so admire?

12

 Nov 25, 2012 at 08:33 AM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #5  
common-sense Says:

You try to paint those who are opposed to President Obama as bigots, but you have revealed that you are the real bigot. Your classification of "good Brooklyn, Lakewood, etc., boys" condemns that entire group as racist. Classification of a group such as you do is the essence of bigotry. This idea that opposition to Obama's middle east policy is racist is hogwash. The fact is that Obama's belief that settlement activity is the most important issue in the Middle East shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the Arab-Israel conflict. His view that Israel must return to the pre-1967 lines is dangerous to Israel. He lacks a fundamental understanding of the Middle East conflict. This has nothing to do with his race. If you want to see bigotry, look in the mirror. As for Gaza, yes, we should thank the President for his support. But in light of his general ideas on the Arab-Israeli conflict, we should still be wary.

"return to the pre-1967 lines is dangerous" President Obama never repeat NEVER said to Israel to return to the 1967 border. Use your COMMON-SENSE and Google it. Get over it. Obama von RUSH lost, and thank G-D every day for Obama. No president in USA history acted toward Israel so suppoprtive before.

13

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:21 AM Torahjew Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Don't be a kefuye tova.

When it has come to actions, Obama has stood with Israel 100% of the time.

Stop listening to the Republican propaganda.

He stood with Israel 100% during this recent war.

He is opposed to the Palestinian moves at the UN.

What more do you want from him?

It's seriously time to grow up and stop listening to Messers. Beck, Limbaugh, Levin, and Hannity.

Think for yourself.

Hey obama pelosi and reid lover when this president can not even say that jerusalem is our capital then tell Israel if you do not stop the gaza offensive you will lose all of your peace treaties is that called backing Israel 100 percent how about get your news from a real place not msnbc if you want to know read the hill from yahoo news thats where you will see what I just quoted

14

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:23 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Yossel Says:

Every Republican president has called for the '67 lines as a basis of negotiation. Dubya even referenced the '49 armistice lines at one time. So how in the world is Obama's policy any worse than the Republicans you so admire?

Find one time george w bush said it because he never did what he did say to ariel sharon was Israel will never go back to 67 as facts on the ground have changed again get your news from a real place check out politico i would not call it a conservative site

15

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
ayinglefunadorf Says:

"return to the pre-1967 lines is dangerous" President Obama never repeat NEVER said to Israel to return to the 1967 border. Use your COMMON-SENSE and Google it. Get over it. Obama von RUSH lost, and thank G-D every day for Obama. No president in USA history acted toward Israel so suppoprtive before.

Get your head out of the sand the only ones who think he is good for Israel are those that want its destruction including george soros, satmer, arabs, Haaretz, the gaurdien feel free to join them intheir anti Israel diatribe stop listing to liberal garbage there is a reason only 10 percent of Israle wanted obama think for yourself why

16

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:31 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
A Real Torah Jew Says:

Hey, so-called Torah-Jew. I'm the # 1 responder on this site.
Calling people names is really a Torah-Jew?
Not having an ounce of Hakoras Hatov is really a Torah-Jew?
Putting all the onus on Obama, when so many other administrations did so much worse for Israel is really a Torah-Jew?
Remembering the hatred of most Jews of Nixon (who later in the Yom Kippur war saved Israel by sending it arms) vs Kennedy (who most Jews loved) is only famous for his infamous words a mere 15 years after the Shoah ("Ich bin ein Berliner") made all those Jews Torah-Jews?
The adoring fans of Truman , who recognized Israel, and then promptly put an embargo to any arms to it, were really a Torah-Jew?
Spare me your hateful words, oh great Torah-Jews !

Get your own name this obama is a disgrace for all Jewry if you follow the Torah to say otherwise you must have a Torah of the reform or liberals where mitzvot are replace by helping destroy our Torah and Israel.
Where should the Hakarat hatov be for demanding Israel stop from erasing Hamas to allow free passage into hamastan to allow more missles into hamastan to threaten peace treaties with Israel I am looking for what to be makir tov unless you are satmer or Israel hater none is due

17

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:35 AM common-sense Says:

Reply to #11  
Yossel Says:

Every Republican president has called for the '67 lines as a basis of negotiation. Dubya even referenced the '49 armistice lines at one time. So how in the world is Obama's policy any worse than the Republicans you so admire?

There is a big difference between a basis for negotiations and saying, as Obama has, that this should be the end result of the negotiations. What is the point of negotiating if the end result is already known. Furthermore, as soon as Obama said that, Abbas announced that there will be no negotiations with Israel unless Israel agreed, in advance, that it will withdraw to the 1967 lines. This mirrors the settlement issue. When Obama made a big issue of settlements, Abbas said that he will not negotiate unless Israel agrees to stop settlement activity.

18

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:57 AM common-sense Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Don't be a kefuye tova.

When it has come to actions, Obama has stood with Israel 100% of the time.

Stop listening to the Republican propaganda.

He stood with Israel 100% during this recent war.

He is opposed to the Palestinian moves at the UN.

What more do you want from him?

It's seriously time to grow up and stop listening to Messers. Beck, Limbaugh, Levin, and Hannity.

Think for yourself.

You should look at a letter sent to Obama by Democratic Senators criticizing his Middle East policy as hurting Israel. Even Democratic Senators were not happy with his policy. His position on settlements and on withdrawing to the 1967 lines is not standing with Israel.

19

 Nov 25, 2012 at 09:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
ayinglefunadorf Says:

"return to the pre-1967 lines is dangerous" President Obama never repeat NEVER said to Israel to return to the 1967 border. Use your COMMON-SENSE and Google it. Get over it. Obama von RUSH lost, and thank G-D every day for Obama. No president in USA history acted toward Israel so suppoprtive before.

funadorf is the right name for you. You are obviously oblivious to the real world. Go to the NY Times online and look it up. Obama said unequivocally that Israel must return to the 1967 lines.

20

 Nov 25, 2012 at 10:08 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Yossel Says:

Every Republican president has called for the '67 lines as a basis of negotiation. Dubya even referenced the '49 armistice lines at one time. So how in the world is Obama's policy any worse than the Republicans you so admire?

Every president until Obama has followed the policy set forth by President Johnson. After the six day war, the UN adopted resolution 242. The Soviet Union and the Arabs wanted the resolution to call for Israel to withdraw from "all" of the captured territories. President Johnson refused to accept it and the UN compromised. Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from "occupied territories." It specifically avoided saying "all" or even "the." Since then, US policy has been that Israel should withdraw from territories, but which territories was to be left to negotiations by the parties. In fact, President George W. Bush sent a letter to the Israeli government making it clear that Israel should NOT withdraw from all of the captured territories. Obama has disavowed the Bush letter. Obama is the first president to state that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines.

21

 Nov 25, 2012 at 10:28 AM PashutehYid Says:

At the end of the 1967 war, there was a Security Council resolution put forward which said that Israel will withdraw from territories it captured to secure and defensible borders.

There was a big argument at that point because Israel's enemies wanted it to say from all territories. The US and Israel's backers insisted it say from territories (i.e., some, not all territories).

It was stupid, because if they had explicitly inserted the word "some" territories, we wouldn't be in this mess. Now, people have long forgotten the nuance, and think from territories means from all territories.

22

 Nov 25, 2012 at 11:03 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Do not make fun of others when you hide your name what are you afraid of you are just a liberal hack who supported obama when he told Israel to go back to the 67' aushwitz borders

"you hide your name what are you afraid"
funny how 'anonymous' writers tell us off when we call ourselves 'anonymous' .
actually, it's quite sad how people never see themselves !

23

 Nov 25, 2012 at 11:26 AM Yossel Says:

Reply to #14  
Anonymous Says:

Find one time george w bush said it because he never did what he did say to ariel sharon was Israel will never go back to 67 as facts on the ground have changed again get your news from a real place check out politico i would not call it a conservative site

In 2005 Bush stood right next to Abbas and said that the 1949 armistice lines should serve as the basis for negotiations. 1949-not 1967.

24

 Nov 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM Yossel Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

Every president until Obama has followed the policy set forth by President Johnson. After the six day war, the UN adopted resolution 242. The Soviet Union and the Arabs wanted the resolution to call for Israel to withdraw from "all" of the captured territories. President Johnson refused to accept it and the UN compromised. Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from "occupied territories." It specifically avoided saying "all" or even "the." Since then, US policy has been that Israel should withdraw from territories, but which territories was to be left to negotiations by the parties. In fact, President George W. Bush sent a letter to the Israeli government making it clear that Israel should NOT withdraw from all of the captured territories. Obama has disavowed the Bush letter. Obama is the first president to state that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines.

False. He said the 1967 lines should serve as the basis of negotiations with mutually agreed landswaps to guarantee Israel's security. This is no different then the Bush roadmap.

25

 Nov 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM common-sense Says:

For those who question that Obama said Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines, see an article in the Washington Post (a pro-Obama newspaper) on May 20, 2011, entitled "Obama's Shift on Israel and the 1967 Lines."

26

 Nov 25, 2012 at 01:01 PM Anonymous Says:

judge a person but what he does not what he says

27

 Nov 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM common-sense Says:

Reply to #24  
Yossel Says:

False. He said the 1967 lines should serve as the basis of negotiations with mutually agreed landswaps to guarantee Israel's security. This is no different then the Bush roadmap.

Which land would be swapped? Tel Aviv for Ramallah?

28

 Nov 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM Anonymous Says:

So sad that some people can't find it in their hearts to give a simple 'thank you'.
Hatred seems to be an overwhelming emotion

29

 Nov 27, 2012 at 03:37 PM bewhiskered Says:

Reply to #24  
Yossel Says:

False. He said the 1967 lines should serve as the basis of negotiations with mutually agreed landswaps to guarantee Israel's security. This is no different then the Bush roadmap.

"This is no different then the Bush roadmap."

Oh, but there is a great difference! Bush was white, so what he said was fine!

30

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