Unlike America’s attitude towards other countries, its attitude regarding the Jewish state is a bottom-up phenomenon, deriving from the worldview of the American public.
That worldview draws its strength from the religious, ethical, moral and cultural roots of American society, which were planted in 1620 with the arrival of the Mayflower and bolstered by the Founding Fathers, who authored the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
For example, the Pilgrims referred to their nine-week sail across the Atlantic Ocean as the “modern-day Exodus” and the “parting of the sea.” Their destination was “the modern-day Promised Land.” Hence the hundreds of American towns, cities, parks and deserts bearing biblical names such as Zion, Jerusalem, Salem, Bethel, Shilo, Bethlehem, Dothan, Hebron, Gilead, Carmel, Rehoboth, Boaz, Moab, etc.
The Philadelphia Liberty Bell, which represents the Founding Fathers’ concept of liberty, features an inscription from Leviticus, 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and all the inhabitants thereof.”
The battle against slavery was based on biblical values and themes; a key leader in that battle, Harriet Tubman, earned the name “Mama Moses.”
In spite of the erosion of these roots and core values in the United States, their impact is deeper than shifting national security interests or the short-term interests of policy makers.
In fact, it is these core values (and the larger strategic, regional and global context) that have moderated the occasional short-term confrontations between the leaders of the United States and Israel.
The potency of these core American values, which are defined as Judeo-Christian values in the United States, the most religious Western democracy, is reflected in fact that 69 percent of the American public views Israel favorably, according to the February 2019 annual Gallup poll (compared with 21 percent Palestinian favorability). This despite systematic criticism of the Jewish state by the “elite” U.S. media and many in the U.S. academia; the entrenched hostility of the State Department’s movers and shakers, who opposed Israel’s establishment in 1948 and have brutally criticized Israel ever since; and pressure by all U.S. presidents from Truman through Obama.
However, contrary to presidential pressure on Israel, the Jewish state has enjoyed the systematic support of the U.S. legislature, the most authentic representative of the (largely pro-Israel) American public and the one most attentive to its mindset and concerns. The legislature is well-aware of the awesome public muscle that is flexed every two years during the election cycles for the (full) House and (one-third) Senate, which is summed up by the battle cry of the electorate: “We will remember in November.”
To ignore the electorate’s values is tantamount to political suicide for members of the House and Senate, and can transform presidents into “lame ducks.”
Thus, the inception and perpetuation of America’s unique attitude toward the Jewish state derives from the assumption, shared by most Americans, that the Jewish state is not a generic foreign entity, but an integral part of the cardinal Judeo-Christian values that have shaped U.S. history, morality and culture.
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.
This column was originally published at The Ettinger Report.