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Dear Israel: Please dump Netanyahu. Your friend, America.

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his stunning acquiescence last week to President Trump's wish that Israel bar entry to two Democratic members of Congress, shows he has no qualms with interfering in U.S. politics.

So he shouldn't mind when Americans offer political advice to Israelis. Here's mine: Dump this guy in next month's election. He is rapidly destroying the 71-year-old U.S.-Israel alliance -- if he hasn't doomed it already.

Last week's denial to U.S. lawmakers who criticize Israel may have been Netanyahu's most egregious provocation, but it was the latest of many. The previous day, Democratic lawmakers had received a letter from Netanyahu taking issue with their request that he refrain from deporting a U.S. citizen who heads Human Rights Watch in Israel.

Netanyahu, The Washington Post reported, used the occasion to attack the two Muslim women -- Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. -- he would later bar. He objected to their signatures on the 17-person congressional request because, he said, their anti-Israel positions are the "antithesis" of "strong bipartisan support for Israel."

No, the antithesis of strong bipartisan support for Israel is Netanyahu.

After Netanyahu's latest stunt, even Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., as stalwart a supporter in Congress as Israel has, said that the move "will only strengthen the anti-Israel movements." And none other than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has fused itself to the Republican Party, said that "every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand."

 

It was AIPAC's second break with Netanyahu this year. In February, it denounced an alliance Netanyahu had formed with a "racist and reprehensible party" in Israel whose members have favored violence against Palestinians, expulsion of Arabs from Israel and a ban on intermarriage between Jews and Arabs.

There's good reason for concern among Israel's American friends. A Pew Research Center poll in April found that although 64% of Americans had a favorable view of the Israeli people, only 41% viewed the Israeli government favorably.

Support for Israel's government isn't bipartisan. While 61% of Republicans had favorable views, only 26% of Democrats did. Young voters (under 30) were particularly hostile toward Israel's government, the poll showed, and younger Republicans' views were significantly less favorable toward Israelis than older Republicans.

In essence, Netanyahu has hitched Israel's future to a fading constituency in U.S. politics. As America grows younger and more racially diverse, Israel's supporters remain disproportionately old, white evangelical Christians. Such a coalition may remain powerful long enough to protect Trump, but over time it will shrink -- and, with it, support for Israel.

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