Israel-Gaza conflict: Young Americans judge Israel's actions in Gaza differently

 

US Editor

If Israel spent most of last week grousing about the United States, by Friday it was surely ready to change its tune.

The US Senate passed a $225m (£134m) bill to replenish Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defence system. More importantly, Washington's condemnation of Hamas for breaking that day's ceasefire was swift and fierce.

President Barack Obama took to the White House press room to lambast Hamas for violating the deal and for the apparent capture of an Israeli soldier. "I want to make sure they're listening," he said. "If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible." He and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, were at last reading from the same page.

Nothing is more deeply etched into US foreign policy than standing by Israel, and suggestions made by some conservatives last week that Mr Obama was chafing at that compact were hardly to be taken seriously. Nor is America about to join in any call for Israel to be brought before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for its actions in Gaza – if only because, as the main supplier of its arms, that would be a risky tack.

Read more: Cameron 'in the wrong' over Gaza, says Miliband
At least 100 dead in 24 hours in Rafah
Netanyahu: No let up in raids until Hamas tunnels are destroyed
Comment: What has Israel achieved in 26 bloody days?

Yet there are times when the friendship can be uncomfortable, and that was on full display through most of last week when civilian casualties in Gaza were soaring and, in particular, when destruction came to a UN school in Gaza with the loss of as many as 20 lives.

That Mr Obama is allowed to express impatience with Israel, at least, was on display in his press conference. He lamented, for instance, the criticisms that had been aimed at his Secretary of State, John Kerry, for failing in his earlier attempts to put a ceasefire in place (one the details of which Israel had found appalling). The sniping had, for the most part, come from Israel. "We should be supporting him", not complaining about him, Mr Obama said.

Indeed, Mr Obama made direct reference to the balancing act he has to perform when it comes to Israel and its behaviour when at war. It was "hard to reconcile Israel's legitimate need to defend itself" with the "legitimate concerns" for civilian casualties in Gaza, he told reporters bluntly. When it is not at war, Israel has tested not just Mr Obama, but also George W Bush and Bill Clinton before him, with its settlement building in the West Bank.

Mr Obama's caution sometimes pays dividends. Had he scolded Israel more harshly last week for the attack on the school, he would have been seen by some to be taking sides with Hamas. And then he would have looked foolish and naive when Hamas militants blatantly violated a ceasefire that had barely taken hold. At the same time, it can feed into the narrative he has learned to live with – that he is indecisive on foreign policy, that Washington is being buffeted by one overseas crisis after another, and that the US has lost its influence.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week confirmed what he could have guessed: 52 per cent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the Gaza emergency, while 39 per cent approve. And a Pew survey, released before the attack on the school, found that only 19 per cent of Americans blamed Israel for the current violence while twice as many, 40 per cent, placed the blame on Hamas.

But there is another interesting divide in the US which, when this crisis has settled, the Israeli leadership might at least want to heed. A new Gallup poll finds that while Americans aged over 65 support Israel's actions by a margin of 24 points, those under 30 oppose them by a margin of 26.

American tolerance with Israel, in other words, might be weakening.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable