Bahbah: Half of Americans Support an Independent Palestinian State
By: Bishara A. Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist
In the most recent Gallup poll conducted in February of this year and released in March 2019, a total of 50 percent of Americans indicated their support of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest level of support since 2012.
The highlights of this latest Gallup poll in comparison with previous polls based on “Gallup’s Annual World Affairs Survey,” reveal the following important trends in Americans’ attitudes toward the Israel-Palestine conflict:
1. Increased Support Among Americans for an Independent Palestinian State
Gallup began asking the question regarding Americans’ support of an independent Palestinian state in 1994 but it was not until 2012 that it began asking the question on an annual basis. The highest ever level of support for a two-state solution was registered in 2003 and it came at 58 percent. This record of support was set after the Gulf War and amidst extensive talk in the United States about the need to resolve the Israel-Palestine question.
Since 2003, American public opinion’s support of a Palestinian state dropped yet climbed to reach the 50 percent level in 2019 – the highest level of support since 2012.
2. More Democrats than Republicans Support a Palestinian State by a Margin of 2:1
62 percent among Democrats vs. 33 percent among Republicans support an independent Palestinian state, according to the 2019 Gallup poll. In 2002 and 2003, when the George W. Bush administration was working on a permanent solution, Republicans and Democrats had roughly equal support for an independent Palestinian state. Since that time, it is evident that the partisan gap has grown significantly over the years.
3. Fewer Americans Now Believe that the Conflict Poses a Threat to US Security
Only 36 percent of Republicans believe that the Palestine-Israel conflict poses a threat to US national security. This is down from 58 percent in 2016 and could only be attributed to the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. By contrast, 36 percent of Democrats believe that the conflict poses a national security threat, down from 43 percent in 2016.
4. More Americans Sympathize with Israel than Palestinians
64 percent of Americans sympathize with Israelis over the Palestinians – this matches the long-term trend among Americans. A whopping 74 percent view Israel favorably compared to only 21 percent for the Palestinian Authority. Note here that the comparison is made between Israel and the PA and not between Israelis and Palestinians.
5. A Majority of Americans Believe that the US is not Doing Enough to Find a Solution to the Conflict
53 percent of Americans believe that President Trump is not doing enough to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In June 2002, only 28 percent of Americans believed that President George W. Bush was not doing enough to resolve the conflict compared to 61 percent who believed that he was doing his best.
6. More Americans Consider Israel as a US Ally Compared to Previous Years
In April 2001, only 32 percent of Americans considered Israel as a US ally. By comparison, in July 2018, 45 percent viewed Israel as a US ally.
7. Americans Believe that to Resolve the Conflict, the US Should Exert More Pressure on the Palestinians for Concessions
In February 2018, 50 percent of Americans believed that the US should exert more pressure on the Palestinians to make compromises vs. 27 percent on Israel. A year earlier, February 2017, 39 percent of Americans believed that the US should put more pressure on the Palestinians vs. 30 percent on Israelis. This deterioration could be explained by the increasingly confrontational relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump administration.
8. 83 Percent of Americans Believe that the Palestine-Israel Conflict Poses Possible Threats to the Vital Interests of the US in the Next 10 Years
This high percentage registered in 2019 compares somewhat favorably with 90 percent in February 2002. Nevertheless, Americans have continued to believe that the Palestine-Israel conflict poses significant possible threats to the vital interests of the United States in the coming years.
9. Republicans are more Sympathetic to Israel Compared to Democrats and Independents
The percentage of Republicans who say that they sympathize more with Israel fell from an all-time high of 87 percent in 2018 to 76 percent in 2019. Notwithstanding this decline, Democrats’ sympathy toward Israel stands at 43 percent in 2019 while it stands at 60 percent among Independents.
Conservative Republicans have been the most partial to Israel in the conflict while Liberal Democrats have been the least partial. Between 2001-2004, 64 percent of Conservative Republicans sympathized with Israel and that sympathy grew to about 81 percent between 2017-2019.
Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, sympathized with Israel at a level of 15 percent between 2001-2004. This sympathy dropped to a mere 3 percent between 2017-2019.
In conclusion, the good news for the Palestinians is that 50 percent of Americans support an independent Palestinian state – the highest level of support since 2012. This increased support occurred despite Trump’s waging a war on Palestinians. Trump’s actions have included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem; cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority; cutting off aid to UNRWA which is vital in supporting Palestinian refugees; and closing down the PLO office in Washington, D.C. The other good piece of good news is that despite the 11 percent drop in support among Republicans for Israel from 2018 and 2019, the divide among Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats has widened over their support of Israel and the Palestinians.
The upcoming battle with regard to US policy toward Israel and Palestine is ramping up between Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats. It remains to be seen to what extent the Democratic takeover of the US House of Representatives will widen that division. And, whether the Ilhan Omar phenomenon of speaking up against Israel and Trump’s policies will have an enduring effect.
Prof. Bishara Bahbah was editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem based “Al-Fajr” newspaper between 1983-84. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.