Israeli authorities fear a loss of influence in Washington, especially in the Democratic Party, with less than four months to go to the presidential elections and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to apply Israeli sovereignty over large areas of the territory of the Occupied west bank.
The signs are more concerning than ever. On June 25, nearly 200 Democratic congressmen signed a letter urging Netanyahu not to proceed with the annexation of the West Bank agreed with President Donald Trump, an unprecedented gesture by the number of signatories that was greeted with dismay in Israel.
In the letter, the congressmen showed their “deep concern” about Netanyahu’s intention and urged him to “reconsider the plans” for the annexation. The most surprising thing is that among the signatories there were many moderate Democrats who for the first time dared to speak in these terms to the Israeli Prime Minister.
Just a few days ago, the main pro-Israeli lobby group, the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), informed congressmen that they could publicly criticize the West Bank annexation plan, but recommended that they not go beyond criticism. In other words, they did not launch any specific initiative against annexation in Congress or the Senate.
Although voices contrary to the annexation plan have emerged from the Republican party, the majority of Republican congressmen are aligned with President Trump on this issue. Republicans continue to see Israel as their closest ally and benefit greatly from the generous donations they receive from the pro-Israel lobby.
Within the Democratic Party, candidate Joe Biden has a long history of support for Israel behind him, and during the current campaign, he has demonstrated it again, although he has also expressed himself, in a measured manner, against annexation. However, the Democratic party is more divided than ever in relation to Israel and the polls that have been carried out for years corroborate a trend in this regard.
Many notable Democrats elected in some states, and even some congressmen from Washington, want to end blind support for Israel and link it to their behaviour towards the Palestinians regarding human rights, demanding an end to the brutal military occupation and that it an opportunity for the Palestinians to determine their destiny.
These approaches find an echo among the general American population, which is increasingly polarized on this issue, a polarization that is also observed among the young Jews of the United States. A 2016 Pew poll already indicated that sympathy for Israel had dropped to 33% among Democratic voters, while it was 74% among Republican voters. In both cases, it showed a drop compared to previous surveys.
But that poll at the same time gave another unanticipated surprise by showing that sympathies with Israel (33%) and Palestine (31%) were virtually identical among Democratic voters.
The following Pew poll, in January 2018, revealed that among Democrats support for Israel had dropped to 27%, an unprecedented figure.
Analysts point out that the latest generation of Democratic politicians, who have a great influence on young Americans, is more progressive than that of party veterans and more identified with the Palestinian cause. This circumstance arouses deep concern among Israeli politicians who fear that the trend will consolidate in the coming years.
Some have observed that today’s Democratic party’s behavior towards Israel has nothing to do with that of 1980 when the Israeli parliament voted to annex the occupied sector of Jerusalem, an action that clearly violated international law. Then the American congressmen feared to lose their seat if they spoke out against annexation, something that today is no longer the case.