No, American Support for Israel Isn’t Dwindling

March 20 2018

According to a recent Gallup poll, 74 percent of respondents registered a positive attitude toward the Jewish state; indeed, Israel’s favorability ratings are the highest they’ve been since 2005. The information from this survey, writes Jonathan Tobin, should serve to counteract prevailing wisdom to the contrary:

The assumption has been that President Donald Trump’s tilt toward Israel would alienate both centrists and liberals in America who see anything associated with him in a negative light. The unpopularity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also supposed to be a drag on Israel’s popularity, as is the mainstream media’s continued assertions that West Bank settlements, rather than Palestinian intransigence, remains the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. But the numbers don’t back up those assumptions. . . .

It’s true that a huge gap exists between the two parties. A staggering 87 percent of Republicans sympathize with Israel, as opposed to 49 percent of Democrats. That still means that [nearly] half of the Democrats stand on the side of the Jewish state.

We’re also told that young people are rejecting Israel. It’s true that many college campuses have seen a rise in support for the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. But Gallup also tells us that 65 percent of Americans ages eighteen to thirty-four back Israel. While that’s admittedly lower than the 80 percent of support Israel gets from those fifty-five and older, it still reflects a solid consensus. . . .

Israel is as popular as it has ever been in the history of American polling. While the shift of the Democratic party to the left [on the subject of Israel] is troubling, the numbers also dictate that those competing for that party’s presidential nomination in 2020 must realize that smart politics will compel them to stay firmly in the pro-Israel camp.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, US-Israel relations

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela