David Frum writes:
A Rasmussen poll conducted in the last week of 2008 found that while 62 percent of Republicans backed Israel’s action in Gaza, only 31 percent of Democrats did. Almost three-quarters of Republicans blamed Hamas for starting this war; only a minority of Democrats agreed. Republicans are 20 points more friendly toward Israel than Democrats. And while extreme hostility to Israel does not exist among Republicans, almost one in 10 Democrats describes Israel as an “enemy of the United States.” . . .
Democratic revulsion at Israel’s Gaza operation has multiple roots.
First, Democrats are just generally less likely to support military actions by any nation, including the United States. A 2005 MIT poll found that only 57 percent of Democrats would support the use of American troops even to destroy a terrorist training camp. (Compared to 95 percent of Republicans.)
Second, Democrats hold an inexhaustible faith in the value of negotiation. Untroubled by Hamas’ character as a terrorist movement pledged to the total destruction of Israel and the murder of its population, 55 percent of Democrats believe that Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the Hamas rocket barrage.
Third, the more closely Americans follow the news, the more likely they are to support Israel. Yet more low-information voters are Democrats than Republicans.
Fourth, Democratic attitudes are poisoned by the influence of an anti-Zionist hard left, a vociferous faction whose ideology can bleed into outright anti-Semitism. . .
Obama comes to office with the most opaque record on Israel of any new president since Gerald Ford. Certainly Israelis themselves feel intense doubts about the incoming president: a pre-election opinion poll by the Rabin Center showed that Israelis preferred John McCain by a 12-point margin.
We should all hope that President Obama can overcome the institutional flaws in his party—and the gaps in his own record—in order to sustain the U.S.-Israel friendship through the very great dangers ahead.
POSTSCRIPT: Hamas itself has a somewhat different view of the value of negotiation.