What America Really Thinks About Israel
Illustration: Flags of Israel and the United States (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The U.S. mindset on Israel — unlike the U.S. attitude toward other countries — is a bottom-top phenomenon: a derivative of the U.S. public worldview, which feeds legislators in the House and Senate and policy-makers in the White House.
The American mindset on Israel draws its strength from the religious, ethical, moral, and cultural roots of American society, which were planted in 1620 and afterwards with the arrival of the early Pilgrims, and bolstered by the Founding Fathers, who authored the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
For example, the early Pilgrims referred to their six to eight week journey across the Atlantic Ocean as the “Modern Day Exodus” and “Parting of the Sea.” Their destination was “the Modern Day Promised Land.” Hence the hundreds of U.S. towns, cities, parks, and deserts bearing Biblical names such as Zion, Jerusalem, Salem, Bethel, Shilo, Bethlehem, Dothan, Hebron, Gilead, Carmel, Rehoboth, Boaz, Moab, etc.
Furthermore, the Philadelphia Liberty Bell, which represents the Founding Fathers’ concept of liberty, features an inscription from Leviticus 25:10, presenting the Biblical core concept of liberty — the Jubilee: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and all the inhabitants thereof.”
Moreover, Yale University’s seal is inscribed in Hebrew letters: אורים ותומים (urim ve'tumim), a reference to the garments worn by the High Priest, dating from the Exodus from Egypt. And the seal of Columbia University features the four-lettered divine name in Hebrew and the name of one of G-d’s angels: אוריאל (Uriel – My light is G-d).
The American battle against slavery was based on Biblical values and themes, such as “Let My People Go,” and a key leader in that battle, Harriet Tubman, earned the name “Mama Moses.”
In spite of the erosion of these roots and core values — as a result of demographic and ideological transformations in the U.S. — their impact has been deeper than shifting national security interests, and more effective than the worldview of short-term serving policy-makers. In fact, these long-term core values — and the larger geo-strategic regional and global context — have moderated occasional short-term confrontations between the leaders of the U.S. and Israel.
While the American Jewish community has provided tailwinds to the 400-year-old unique U.S. mindset on the concept of a Jewish State, it was not the Jewish community that laid the foundations of such a unique public mindset toward the Jewish State.
The potency of the core American values — which are defined as "Judeo-Christian" values in the U.S., the most religious Western democracy — is reflected by the 69% favorability of Israel, according to the February 2019 annual Gallup poll, as compared with 21% Palestinian favorability. This figure is in defiance of significant odds that do not challenge any other ally of the U.S.: a systematic criticism by the “elite” U.S. media and many in the academia; the entrenched hostility of the State Department’s movers and shakers, who opposed Israel’s establishment in 1948, and have brutally criticized Israel ever since; and pressure by all U.S. presidents from Harry Truman through Barack Obama.
However, contrary to presidential pressure on Israel, the Jewish State has enjoyed systematic support by the co-equal and co-determining Legislature, which has been the most authentic representative of the largely pro-Israel American public and, therefore, is most attentive to public mindset and concerns.
The Legislature is well aware of the awesome public muscle, which is displayed every two years during the election cycles for the (full) House and (one-third) Senate, highlighting the electorate battle cry: “We shall remember in November.” Ignoring the electorate’s core values amounts to political suicide by Members of the House and the Senate, and could transform presidents into “lame ducks.”
Reflecting Jewish symbols and representing these core values of the U.S. electorate are the bust of Moses facing the Speaker in the Chamber of the House of Representatives; the statue of Moses and the Ten Commandments on the ceiling of the U.S. Supreme Court above the seats of the nine Supreme Court Justices; the Ten Commandments monuments on the ground of the State Capitols in Austin, TX, Oklahoma City, OK and Little Rock, AR, and in scores of additional towns in the U.S.; the statues of Joshua, King David, and Judah the Maccabee among the “Nine Worthies” at the West Point Military Academy Administration Building; the January 2001 welcoming address by Senator Mitch McConnell of the newly-elected President George W. Bush: “We trust that you shall lead us in the best tradition of Joshua and Caleb”; and other examples.
Thus, the inception and perpetuation of the unique U.S. public mindset on the Jewish State — since the 1620 docking of the Mayflower — has been a derivative of the assumption made by most Americans that the Jewish State is not a generic foreign entity, but rather an integral part of cardinal religious values that have shaped U.S. history, morality, and culture.
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is the director of The Ettinger Report: Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.