On the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that seven in 10 Americans would prefer to leave peace negotiations to the Israelis and Palestinians rather than see the United States take a lead role in trying to resolve the conflict.
According to the survey, while 55 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel — as opposed to 9 percent who support the Palestinians — the majority of Americans would like to let the main protagonists in the conflict come to an agreement without the United States at the helm.
Support for Israel was at a record high (66 percent) among the 65 and older age group.
Preference for the United States not to take a leading role increased by 15 percentage points compared to the previous time the poll was conducted 11 years ago, at the height of the Second Intifada. In 2002, 42 percent of Americans felt the United States should lead talks.
The poll found that there was agreement along partisan, ideological and religious lines that the two sides should be left to handle negotiations themselves.
The poll also found that 34 percent of Americans believe the Obama administration has put too little pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make concessions and come back to the negotiating table, with 38 percent feeling that “about the right amount” of pressure was applied. When it comes to Israel, 41 percent said they felt the United States used the right amount of pressure, compared to 17 percent who felt it was “too much pressure” — a view which peaked among the 65 and older age group.
Earlier this month, a Gallup poll found that American sympathies for Israel are at a 22-year high. In figures gleaned from the polling organization’s early February World Affairs poll, 64 percent of Americans say their sympathies “in the Middle East situation” — Gallup’s term for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace talks — lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Just 12 percent favor the Palestinians.
Nearly one-quarter, or 23 percent, said their sympathies lie with both parties or neither, or said they had no opinion.