Walter Russell Mead highlights how Israel has become a dog-whistle for American exceptionalism:
Presidential candidates stressing their pro-Israel positions by supporting hard line Israeli leaders are more likely to be chasing non-Jewish than Jewish votes. In American politics, taking a strong pro-Israel stand is a way of communicating your commitment to American exceptionalism and to American global leadership. While there are plenty of individual exceptions, as a general rule of thumb voters who are skeptical about the value of the US Israel alliance or who have serious concerns about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are voters who have qualms about the idea that America is an exceptional country with a mandate to change the world. Voters who identify strongly with Israel and want the US to support it tend to favor a strong US national defense and a forward leaning foreign policy.
I think this is clearly what many of the more hawkish pro-Israel voices in American politics want people to believe. And it's obvious why. Filter Mead's bloodless language through the demagoguery of electoral politics and the above paragraph starts to sound more like this:
"Those who are skeptical about the value of the U.S.-Israel alliance hate America."
The question here isn't whether the U.S. should provide financial, military or intelligence support to Israel - that's a settled issue. The question is whether it's healthy for the very idea of America's mission in the world to be so inextricably bound up with another state. And not just any state, but - as Mead notes - that state's "hard-liners." Israel happens to be the most salient nation here because it's become something of a 2012 campaign football, but the question applies to close allies like NATO member states or Japan and Taiwan. It's not an issue of alliances or America's cosmic "mandate" to remake the world, but of sovereign flexibility. If Israel's hard-liners adopted polices that American policymakers deemed detrimental to U.S. interests, it shouldn't be construed as a betrayal of national character to disapprove of them.