In a reaffirmation of strong U.S.-Israel ties, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off his visit to Washington, DC with a meeting at the White House on Monday, which will be followed by a speech at the left-wing think tank, the Center for American Progress on Tuesday. He will receive the Irving Kristol Award, the American Enterprise Institute’s highest honor, on Monday evening. In his opening remarks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong. I think it’s rooted in shared values. It’s buttressed by shared interests. It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.” President Obama opened the session stating, “There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.”
President Obama also reiterated the close military and intelligence cooperation that exists between the two states, declaring that the cooperation is closer “than any two administrations in history.” Much of the bilateral meeting, President Obama said, would focus on negotiating a new memorandum of understanding (MOU), since the current one is set to expire in fiscal year 2018. In the current MOU, reached in 2007, the U.S. and Israeli governments agreed to a $30 billion “military aid package” for 10 years. For decades, the U.S. has had a policy of ensuring that Israel maintain its qualitative military edge to deter or counter any military threat.
President Obama also condemned the recent wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank, telling reporters that “we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens.” On November 3, 2015, a bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) submitted a resolution “in support of Israel and in condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks.” In addition, last week members of the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Palestinian Authority’s incitement against Israel. Ranking Member of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said that the terror attacks are a “direct result of incitement by Palestinian leaders” who spread lies that Israel is changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. He continued, “These false accusations send a dangerous message that violence and acts of terrorism are acceptable and even justified.”
Survey trends show Americans’ favorable views of Israel have not been much affected by these recent events. Some partisan differences exist, but those partisan divides have been there for some time.
Overall, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ surveys find that Americans tend to view Israel favorably (giving Israel an average of 59 out of a possible 100 favorability rating), on par with their feelings toward France (61 out of 100). There is a partisan hue to American feelings, as the figure below shows.
But in fact, favorable views of Israel actually rose across the political spectrum when last asked this question in 2014.
A paper cited and co-written by Smeltz, which was also released Monday, provided more details supporting her observation:
But if the past is any indication of the future of the US-Israel relationship, public opinion trends suggest the relationship will continue to be a warm one. Results from the 2014 Chicago Council Survey show that favorable feelings toward Israel have increased among supporters from both parties in recent years. Republicans’ favorable views of Israel have increased 12 percentage points since a low point in 1998. A majority of Democrats also continue to feel favorably toward Israel, up from a low point of 50 percent in 2002. Gallup surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 corroborate these trends. In both years, seven in ten Americans expressed favorable views of Israel, suggesting that events over the last year did not affect American support for Israel.
In her Post study, Smeltz further noted that a majority of Americans would support U.S. military intervention to defend Israel if it was attacked by an enemy, a figure that “is currently at the highest level recorded among […] Republicans, Democrats and Independents.”
Smeltz concluded by observing:
Regarding partisanship among the public in support for Israel, there are some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the depth of their support. But when placed into context over time, these differences are neither revelatory nor unique to the tenures of Netanyahu or Obama.
A poll released this past February found that a plurality of Americans were in favor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to address Congress on the dangers presented by a nuclear Iran. Last year, a poll revealed that American voters overwhelmingly held the Palestinian Authority responsible for a breakdown in peace talks, with over two-thirds of respondents agreeing that Jerusalem couldn’t be expected to negotiate with a unity government that includes the designated terror group Hamas. (via TheTower.org)
Processing trauma. Managing anxiety. Talking to children about fear and safety. These are skills many Israelis are seeking to learn in the face of the current wave of terror attacks often perpetrated by teenage Arab assailants with kitchen knives. Many of the victims also are young, including a two-year-old walking with his parents and a 13-year-old riding a bike in Jerusalem. According to the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), Israeli parents are feeling the anxiety most acutely because unlike during wartime, stabbing attacks are not preceded by red alert sirens, cannot be foiled by the Iron Dome missile-defense system and cannot be escaped by running to a bomb shelter. And nowhere seems totally safe; while the attacks are more prevalent in the Jerusalem area, they are happening in other parts of Israel as well. Jerusalem-based ITC has devised a range of responses including trauma guidance workshops for parents, working together with partner agencies and funds from the Jewish Federations of Los Angeles and New York. So far, about 18 training sessions have been offered in nine Jerusalem neighborhoods – and an online session on Facebook — according to Ravid Nevo, Jerusalem Regional Training Center Manager for ITC. One workshop was for parents of children in the Sieff & Marks (Ziv) School in Jerusalem after the headmaster’s father was killed in a stabbing and shooting attack on a public bus on October 13. Another was specifically for Ethiopian parents and another is scheduled for parents who are blind or visually impaired. “We get a lot of requests because parents don’t feel they have the ability and tools to deal with the anxiety and stress their kids are experiencing,” Nevo tells ISRAEL21c. “Many parents are suffering from extreme anxiety and we know from experience that their reaction is to close ranks, to refuse to let their children leave the house, and as a result, the children experience their own raised level of anxiety. Helping parents helps children and as such, we are providing parental guidance groups nationwide.” (via Israel21c)
As boat after boat arrives at the Greek island of Lesbos, the refugees aboard are met by a cacophony of languages from aid workers offering help. But there is only one team of aid workers from the Middle East that can talk to these refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in their own language. To their surprise, it is the Israeli team.
“It feels like I dreamed it,” said a bemused 26-year-old man from Damascus. “I never thought an Israeli would treat me.” His wife had just received medical help from IsraAID, a humanitarian aid agency that started working on the European refugee crisis in September. It currently has a team in Lesbos and another on the Serbia-Croatia border.
The Israeli team checked his wife, who is nine months pregnant, as she stepped off the boat, and took her to the hospital for emergency treatment. “I wouldn’t have known that she was not okay, and because of them I knew to get her attention,” he said.
Lesbos lies on a stretch of Greek coastline that faces Turkey. And it is from Turkey that the refugee boats are dispatched by cynical human traffickers. They will pack 50 people into a boat meant for 20 and take U.S. $1,700 from each. Then they designate a driver from among the refugees, and take no further interest in whether they survive or sink. Piles of abandoned boats and lifejackets give a sense of just how many thousands of refugees have passed through here in recent weeks.
Two members of the IsraAID team—a nurse and a doctor—are stationed on the shore night and day, and race to meet every boat that arrives. If the weather is bad and the boats stop 10 to 20 meters from shore, they wade out to carry children and help the elderly. If the weather is good, they wait on shore with blankets and food. Then they give IV drips to the dehydrated and treatment to the injured. The refugees are usually relived to find aid workers who speak Arabic, and bombard them with questions about the Greek bureaucracy’s procedures for refugees.
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