US survey raises eyebrows in Jerusalem

Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST

A survey by a respected journal showing that 15 of 108 foreign policy elites in the US believe Israel does not serve US national security interests has raised eyebrows in Jerusalem. It precedes the publication in early September of a book by two US professors slamming the Israel-US alliance.

The journal, Foreign Policy, on Monday published its “terrorism index,” asking a bipartisan group of former “secretaries of state, national security advisors, senior White House aides, top commanders in the US military, seasoned intelligence professionals, and distinguished academics” a variety of questions having to do with US national security issues.

When given a list of US allies and asked to choose the one country that least serves US national security interests, 14 percent of the respondents picked Israel. Russia led the list, with 34% saying it least served US interests, followed by 22% who said Pakistan, 17% who selected Saudi Arabia, and 5% each for Egypt and Mexico.

The journal billed the respondents, whose names were not supplied, as America’s “top foreign-policy experts.” Forty-five of the respondents described themselves as Democrats, 24 as Republicans, and the rest as Independents.

One diplomatic official in Jerusalem, while acknowledging that 14% is a considerable minority, said he was still worried by the trend.

“Considering the closeness and importance of our ties with Washington, this is something we need to watch,” he said.

The official said that while in the past the notion that the US alliance with Israel harmed US interests was a belief relegated to individuals on the far right, such as Pat Buchanan, and the far left, like Noam Chomsky, this survey indicated that the idea was gaining prominence among the elites.

This idea is starting to make it into the mainstream, the official said, citing as an example a paper published last year by University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer and Harvard University’s Stephen Walt arguing that the US was willing to “set aside its own security” to advance Israel’s interests because of AIPAC and the Israel lobby.

The official expressed concern that this trend will likely pick up steam with the scheduled release early next month of a book by the two, which, according to press reports, argues that with the end of the Cold War, “Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States.”
The official also expressed concern that more US policy elites were buying into the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the source of Islamic terrorism and anti-Americanism around the world.

The Foreign Policy survey bore this out, with 51% of the respondents saying that creating peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be “very important” to “addressing the threat of Islamist terrorism worldwide.” Another 24% said solving the conflict with the Palestinians would be “somewhat important,” and only 25% said it would have little or no impact on Islamic terrorism worldwide.

Regarding Hamas, a majority of the respondents came out against the current US policy of isolating Hamas, with 53% saying that engaging moderates inside Hams would be in the US’s best interests, and only 17% backing the current Bush administration policy of isolation.

The respondents’ replies to a question about what Iran would do with a nuclear capability were also somewhat surprising. Sixty-seven percent said it was either “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” that Iran would build weapons to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Even as Foreign Policy published its survey on Monday, the Financial Times released a poll that showed Israel was no longer viewed in large parts of Europe, and in the US, as a threat to global security.

Less than half a percent of the respondents in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the US listed Israel when asked, “Which one, if any, of the following countries do you think is the greatest threat to global stability?” These results contrasted mightily to a controversial poll carried out in 2003 by the European Commission, in which more than half of those asked said Israel posed the “biggest threat to world peace.”

In Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany, the US – according to the Financial Times survey – led the list of countries threatening global stability. In the US that distinction was shared by Iran and North Korea.

The poll was conducted by Harris Interactive among 6,398 people between August 1 and 13.•
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