Bombing is backed by most American voters
From Tom Baldwin in Washington
Times" -- -- ISRAEL’s military campaign in southern
Lebanon is still being backed by most American voters, according to
a survey published yesterday that shows public opinion in the US
once again sharply at odds with views in Europe.
The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that 59 per cent believed
that Israel’s actions were “justified”, although a quarter of this
group stated that the military had behaved in an “excessively harsh”
In contrast, a recent YouGov/Telegraph poll in Britain showed that
only 17 per cent of those surveyed believed that Israel had made an
“appropriate and proportional” response to the kidnapping of its
soldiers. A Forsa/Stern poll has indicated that 75 per cent of
Germans believe that Israel’s actions are “disproportionate” and
only 12 per cent approved of the attacks on Palestinian or Lebanese
settlements. Such a division across the Atlantic in Western public
opinion is similar to that which opened up over whether there should
be an invasion of Iraq.
This is, in part, a reflection of the more aggressive stance adopted
by American voters after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
John McCain, the Republican senator, spoke for many this week when
he suggested that America would respond in a similar fashion to
Israel if it faced missile attacks from the other side of the
But support for Israel, which extends to billions of dollars in
military aid, has deeper roots within American politics, where there
is a long-established and influential Jewish lobby. This emphasises
Israel’s post-Holocaust origins, its staunch support for the US
during the Cold War and its role as a democracy in a region prone to
dictatorship and extremism.
Last week 20 Democrat congressmen reacted furiously when Nouri al-Maliki,
the Iraqi Prime Minister, criticised Israel and failed to condemn
Hezbollah as terrorists. They called for the withdrawal of his
invitation to address Congress and some boycotted his speech.
The bipartisan pro-Israel lobby has, in recent years, been further
strengthened by the fervour of millions of right-wing evangelical
Christians, at least some of whom believe that the Middle East
conflict is the fulfilment of the Bible’s prophecy of Armageddon.
Last month the Reverend John Hagee, a Pentecostal television
evangelist from Texas, convened a meeting in Washington of 3,500
members of Christians Unified for Israel. The organisation is
dedicated to building support for Israel, even in states where there
are few Jewish voters.
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican presidential hopeful,
attended the rally, as did Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania,
Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, and Daniel
Ayalon, the Israeli Ambassador.
Mr Hagee called the Israeli attacks on Lebanon a “miracle of God”
and suggested that a ceasefire would violate “God’s foreign policy
statement” towards Jews. The evangelist is a leading figure in the
so-called Christian-Zionist movement, rooted in a literal
interpretation of the Book of Revelations, which predicts a final
battle between good and evil in Israel, where two billion people
will die before Christ’s return ushers in a 1,000-year period of
“The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching . . .
Rejoice and be exceeding glad — the best is yet to be,” Mr Hagee has
written in a book that has sold 700,000 copies.
President Bush sent a message to the gathering praising Mr Hagee and
his supporters for “spreading the hope of God’s love and the
universal gift of freedom”. He is said to have added: “God bless and
stand by the people of Israel and God bless the United States.”
The support for Israel of 50 million American evangelicals chimes
with the reality of the Administration’s foreign policy, which
refuses to tolerate terrorist organisations — or the Middle Eastern
regimes linked to them. Dennis Ross, a Middle East envoy in the
administrations of the first President Bush and Bill Clinton, said
recently that evangelical supporters of Israel were now an
“important part of the landscape”.
43 per cent thinks Israel’s actions justified, not excessively harsh
28 per cent thinks Israel’s action is unjustifed
13 per cent thinks the US should call for an immediate ceasefire
50 per cent thinks the US should continue to align itself with
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.