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US-Israel relations won't be shaken no matter who wins Tuesday

US-Israel ties are arguably stronger and deeper now than at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948. The relationship tends to rest on shared principles rather than the personalities at the top.

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Professor Ben-Zvi attributed that distance to Obama’s upbringing – including a stint in Jakarta, Indonesia – which was “distant both geographically and psychologically from the formative American narrative,” according to translated excerpts published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

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Obama’s “distance from the values and the beliefs that form the core of the pattern of special relations” helps explain his “cool and reserved attitude toward Israel," wrote Ben-Zvi.

Many Israelis have criticized the fact that Obama’s opening foreign-policy salvo – a speech to the Islamic world from Cairo – was never followed up by a visit to Jerusalem. He clashed with Mr. Netanyahu over Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank, publicly slighted the prime minister during a White House visit, and declined to meet him altogether during Netanyahu’s visit to the United Nations in September. (For more perspective, the Monitor details five lower points from the history of US-Israel relations.)

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a clear majority of Israeli Jews (57 percent) prefer Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, especially given the country’s rightward shift in recent years. An October survey by the Israel Democracy Institute revealed that 17 percent of the Jewish public in Israel define themselves as left or moderate left, with 55 percent saying they’re right or moderate right, and the rest in the center. 

But despite Israelis’ lack of warmth toward Obama, they have consistently placed a high premium on maintaining good ties with the US and have been unwilling to risk that, even in the case of Iran’s nuclear program, a threat some put on par with the Holocaust.

“All the studies we’ve done over the past 25 years show that the Israeli public … puts great, great, great emphasis between Israel and the US and views strong bonds … as a major factor in Israel’s national security,” Yehuda Ben Meir, codirector of INSS’s National Security and Public Opinion Project, told the Monitor in September. “Since it’s been made very clear that the US is more than strongly opposed to a unilateral Israeli independent attack at this time … [Israelis] don’t want it.”

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