A recent Bloomberg Politics poll on partisan views of Israel and nuclear negotiations with Iran found something interesting:
Republicans by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 say the U.S. should support Israel even when its stances diverge with American interests, a new Bloomberg Politics poll finds.
This result is being widely interpreted to mean that these respondents think the U.S. should privilege Israeli interests above America’s, but I’m not sure that this is what the poll tells us. The statement that 45% of the respondents said was closest to their own view was this: “Israel is an important ally, the only democracy in the region, and we should support it even if our interests diverge.” This is unfortunately much less informative than it seems. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these respondents think the U.S. should subordinate our interests to Israel’s. All that it definitely does mean is that these respondents think the U.S. should offer undefined “support” to Israel even when there are disagreements between our governments, which is more or less what “pro-Israel” hawks say all the time.
That implies that these respondents would oppose reducing or eliminating U.S. aid and diplomatic cover, but it doesn’t have to mean that they think the interests of another country should be put ahead of our own. While it’s plausible that some of these respondents understood and answered the question this way, it is more likely that most of them don’t think it is possible for U.S. and Israeli interests to diverge. Many Americans do tend to conflate the interests of our two countries, and they probably can’t imagine that those interests ever could diverge in a significant way. When they are presented with clear evidence of that they do, it is easier to explain it away by blaming the current administration and accusing it of undermining both U.S. and Israeli interests.
It would probably have been more useful to ask if there would ever be any circumstances in which the respondents could imagine the U.S. suspending aid or withholding its veto at the U.N., and if so what those circumstances might be. As it is, the Bloomberg poll gives people two options to affirm an “alliance” with Israel that doesn’t exist with differing degrees of intensity. Because Republicans are generally the more enthusiastically “pro-Israel” party now, they disproportionately chose the statement that expressed the strongest affirmation of the non-existent “alliance.” The result is interesting as evidence that the partisan split on Israel is persisting and getting wider, but beyond that it doesn’t tell us very much.