The FINANCIAL — As President Donald Trump talks about reaching a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is “good for all sides,” a new Gallup poll finds the American public closely split over one of the Palestinians’ longtime demands — Palestinian statehood.
Currently, 45% of Americans support establishing an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while 42% oppose it. This follows years of significantly more Americans supporting than opposing Palestinian statehood.
Americans’ support for an independent Palestinian state is essentially unchanged from last year, but the percentage opposed is up five percentage points to 42% — the highest level seen in Gallup’s trend. However, on a proportional basis, the latest results are similar to 2015, when 42% favored a Palestinian state and 38% were opposed. The main difference is that fewer Americans today (13%) than in 2015 (20%) have no opinion, according to Gallup.
As has long been the case, Democrats and Republicans have sharply differing views on establishing a Palestinian state. Currently, 61% of Democrats, 50% of independents and 25% of Republicans are in favor.
From a long-term perspective, Democrats’ and independents’ views have been fairly steady, while Republicans’ support has varied. Still, Republicans have been consistently less supportive than Democrats, except in 2003, coinciding with an effort by then-President George W. Bush to broker a peace deal that involved Palestinian statehood.
The latest results are from Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 1-5. The same poll included an update of Gallup’s long-standing measure of Americans’ “sympathies” in the Middle East conflict.
In response to the Gallup trend question, 62% of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis and 19% with the Palestinians, similar to the past several years. Another 19% express no preference, including 5% who say they sympathize with both equally, 6% who sympathize with neither and 8% who have no opinion.
More members of all three party groups sympathize with Israel than with the Palestinians, but this ranges from 82% of Republicans to 57% of independents and 47% of Democrats. By contrast, 6% of Republicans, 23% of independents and 29% of Democrats sympathize more with the Palestinians.
Israeli Leader Maintains Favorable U.S. Image
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose support for Middle East peace would be critical to achieving it, is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by Americans, 49% vs. 30%. However, both of those ratings are at high points, reflecting increased political polarization of his image.
Republicans’ views of Netanyahu have grown more positive in recent years, while Democrats’ views have become more negative. And Netanyahu’s appearance before the U.S. Congress in March 2015 to warn U.S. leaders about the dangers of the impending U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement was a watershed, causing Republicans to view him more favorably and Democrats less favorably. Since then, Republicans have warmed to him even more, while Democrats’ views have only partially tempered.
Currently, 32% of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably and 41% unfavorably. That compares with 31% favorably and 31% unfavorably in February 2015, before Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Meanwhile, Republicans’ views of Netanyahu are more positive today: 73% favorable and 11% unfavorable, versus 60% favorable and 18% unfavorable in February 2015.
Americans continue to sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are now split over the merits of an independent Palestinian state. But much of this is driven by Republicans, who show extraordinarily high support for Israel and — in contrast to Democrats — lean against Palestinian statehood.
As a candidate, Trump said he wanted to be the president who succeeds in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he may start laying the groundwork this week when he meets with Netanyahu at the White House. Trump’s recent caution about Israeli settlement expansion suggests he wants to keep the two-state solution viable. However, in addition to the challenge he will face in bridging the Israeli-Palestinian divide, Trump may face resistance from rank-and-file Republicans. On the other hand, Republicans may take Trump’s lead and once again support statehood, just as they did when Bush advocated it in 2003.