Republican hard-liners have not surprisingly come to the exact wrong conclusion about the value of the failed anti-Hagel campaign. Elliott Abrams says:
The fight against Hagel presents the Republican party as a very pro-Israeli party, which is a good thing.
I don’t think there was any danger that the GOP would ever be perceived as anything other than a “very pro-Israeli party” no matter how they reacted to Hagel’s nomination, so this is a strange way to assess the value of the anti-Hagel campaign to the party. Based on the absurd lengths to which almost all of the presidential candidates went in 2011 and 2012 to affirm their zealous devotion, it was impossible to reach any other conclusion. Romney’s frequent declarations that there would be “not an inch” of difference between the U.S. and Israel under his administration summed up the ridiculous degree of “pro-Israel” fervor that Republican politicians in particular now feel obliged to express. It has already become commonplace to acknowledge that there is a growing partisan gap in opinion polls on U.S. Israel policy. A Pew survey from the start of this year found the gap to be very wide:
You’ll notice that Republican sympathy with Israel started skyrocketing at the start of the last decade and has now climbed to an all-time high. What Republicans consistently keep missing is that all of this is gradually working to their disadvantage. Part of this comes from ignoring the fact that most Americans now tend to recoil from knee-jerk hawkishness in general, but it’s also a result of grossly overestimating how popular the status quo on Israel policy is. As Republicans become more resolutely and uniformly a party of “pro-Israel” hawks, they are separating themselves more and more from the rest of the country. As they are on other issues, Republicans are increasingly at odds the views of younger voters, who are more likely to sympathize with neither side or even take a more “pro-Palestinian” view of the conflict:
American sympathy for Israel is real enough (especially when contrasted with general lack of sympathy with Israel’s neighbors), but it doesn’t translate into broad support for extremely one-sided U.S. backing of Israel. Polls have consistently found that a large majority believes that the U.S. shouldn’t take sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It was an article of faith endorsed by members of both parties during Hagel’s confirmation hearing that Israel is an extremely important ally, but most Americans don’t perceive Israel as an ally at all. As new cohorts of voters begin participating more regularly in elections, Republicans will find that their increasingly hard-line “pro-Israel” position has taken them into a political cul-de-sac.
Update: The latest WSJ/NBC poll has some similar results.