Greg Sargent reports on a recent Pew Research public opinion poll under the heading, Americans ignoring conservative falsehoods about Obama and Israel.
A plurality (50%) says Barack Obama is striking the right balance in the Middle East situation, while 21% say he favors the Palestinians too much. There has also been no change in these views over the past year; in April 2010, 47% said Obama struck the right balance and 21% said he favored the Palestinians too much.
Other highlights from the poll are:
* Of those respondents who sympathize with either "Israel" or "the Palestinians," 81% sympathize with Israel; 19% sympathize with the Palestinians. In April 2010, the ratio was 75% to 25%.
* Of those voicing an opinion, 66% believe President Obama has struck "about the right balance" between Israel and the Palestinians; 8% believe he favors Israel too much; and 28% believe he favors the Palestinians too much. In April 2010, the ratios were 63% to 9% to 28%.
Significantly, Pew Research tells Greg Sargent "that a plurality of those who are more sympathetic with Israel also say Obama has the balance right. Of those who are more sympathetic to Israel, 49 percent say he strikes the right balance, versus only 38 percent who say he favors the Palestinians too much."
A description of the survey methodology is here.
According to Pew, the public's sympathies between Israel and the Palestinians "have fluctuated only modestly since the late 1970s; in 1993, the proportion sympathizing more with the Palestinians reached 21%, the highest percentage over this period." The 1993 survey data are dated September 1993 (pdf) (Q.45). The date suggests to me that American sympathy with the Palestinians was greatest when, because of the Oslo Agreement, Palestinians were viewed as recognizing Israel and eager to make peace with Israel. The agreement was announced in mid-August; on September 13th there was a public signing ceremony at the White House, at which President Clinton arranged a handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Refuting Republican accusations that President Obama supposedly has revealed himself as too pro-Palestinian -- Mitt Romney said that the President had thrown Israel under a bus, Greg Sargent writes:
Barely more than a fifth of Americans agree with the right’s contention that Obama has revealed himself as too pro-Palestinian even though they’re also far more disposed to sympathize with Israel.
And that’s not all. Not even Republicans and white evangelicals — who appear to be one of the target audiences of the campaign to paint Obama as anti-Israel — are willing to go along in any greater numbers with this nonsense:Even among Republicans and white evangelicals -- who already were more likely to say that Obama tilts too much toward the Palestinians -- there has been no significant increase in the percentages expressing this view since last year.
(Greg Sargent's emphasis).
Pew Research conducted the poll between May 25 and 30, 2011, shortly after President Obama's speeches at the State Department and to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. This is significant because wide publicity was given to the President's remarks regarding Israel and the Palestinians. The heart of President Obama's policy is two states for two peoples; one Jewish; the other Palestinian:
Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
The President also made the important point that "[t]he borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." Propaganda by Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to the contrary, this point is neither novel nor controversial. In May 2005, for example, when welcoming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, then president George W. Bush said:
Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.
Bush's reference to "the 1949 Armistice lines" is identical to President Obama's reference to "the 1967 lines." Both presidents used the pre-1967 War lines as the starting point, subject to mutually agreed upon changes. Perhaps for this reason, Noah Pollak, executive director of the anti-Obama Emergency Committee for Israel, tweeted during the President's State Department speech: "Obama's line on Israel/Palestine borders is basically identical to Bush admin. Nothing new here." Only after-the-fact did Pollak & Co. fabricate their unfounded attacks on the President.
Those of us who are concerned about achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, need to learn the right lessons from these facts.
First, President Obama is pro-Israel without being anti-Palestine.
Second, the greater part of the American public sympathizes more with Israel than with the Palestinians.
Third, the greater part of the American public believes that President Obama has struck the right balance. Indeed, only 8% of Americans expressing an opinion in the Pew Research poll thought that the President is too pro-Israel.
It follows that the President should be encouraged to play a more active role in bridging gaps between Israel and the Palestinians. Among possible foreign policy goals presented in the Pew poll, 23% of respondents regard "Finding a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians" as a "top priority"; 47% rank it as "some priority"; and only 27% say that it is "no priority." (Q.21,i.F1).
Especially if one desires real, tangible improvements in the every-day lives of ordinary Palestinians, as I do, one should try to push forward the only plausible policy that most Americans will support: creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a two states for two peoples peace settlement. In the President's words: "Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."
Equally, if one desires, as I do, the reelection of the President, one should take care that President Obama and the Democratic Party are not viewed by the public, mistakenly, as out of touch with the public's predominant sympathy for Israel. In other words, as seekers of peace and a Palestinian state alongside Israel, we need to be clear that one can be, and we are, pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel. And those of us whose greater sympathies are with Israel need to show that one can be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian.