From time to time, people discuss what American, or Democratic Party, policy regarding Israel ought to be. I don't mean to to suggest that public opinion data should dictate our political positions. (Briefly put, I agree with the statement of principles of the People's Voice
, a joint Israeli-Palestinian effort.) Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look for some survey data.
Poll results include
To learn more about what I found, please read below the fold.
American Attitudes Toward Israel and the Middle East
- 67% (March) and 71% (June) of Americans viewing Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a "bold step toward peace."
- support for a Palestinian state "as soon as possible" has declined from 55% (2003) to 31% (March, 2005) and 30% (June), while the percentage of Americans who believe that "[a] Palestinian state should be established only after Palestinians end terrorist violence and accept Israel's legitimacy" has increased from 38% (2003) to 59% (March, 2005) and 54% (June).
is a public opinion survey conducted by The Martilla Communications Group for the Anti-Defamation League. 1,600 people were interviewed in March, 2005, and 600 more were interviewed in June, 2005.
Respondents were selected from all American households using a random probability sampling procedure which included unlisted telephone numbers.
For questions that were asked to 1600 respondents, the margin oferror is +-2.8%. For questions that were asked to 600 respondents, the margin of error is +-4.0%.
In June, 71% of Americans view Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a "bold step toward peace"; 12% regard it as "not significant." (March: 67% and 15%, respectively.)
According to Nahum Barnea, Israel's leading political commentator, the survey also shows that
support for the pullout is far-reaching and satisfies all the shades of the proverbial American rainbow - Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Catholics and Protestants, Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.
The support is especially high among those who consider themselves to be supporters of Israel - 79 percent fit this category.
The percentage of Americans who favor creating a Palestinian state "as soon as possible" has decreased from 45% in 2003 to 30% in June, 2005 (31% in March). Meanwhile, the percentage who believe that a Palestinian state should be created only "after Palestinians end the terrorist violence and accept Israel's legitimacy" has gone from 38% in 2003 to 54% in Jun, 2005 (59% in March).
American sympathies are affected by whether they look at the situation in terms of Israel and the Palestinians or Israel and the Arab countries.
While Bush's favorability-unfavorability declined from 53-41 in March to 49-49 in June and Abbas's favorability-unfavorability declined from 27-16 to 22-23, Sharon remained relative stable, going from 42-22 to 40-21.
(I always wonder how to respond to this kind of question. Should I state my true opinion of Sharon, which is damningly unfavorable? Or, concerned that my opinion of Sharon will be taken as a proxy for my opinion about the disengagement, should I hold my nose and say that it is favorable?)
Three-quarters of Americans believe Israeli leaders are very serious or somewhat serious "about wanting to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians." Two-thirds of Amerians believe Palestinian President Abbas is very serious or somewhat serious "about wanting to reach a peace agreement with the Israelis."
The poll contains a lot more information, but since I don't know how to reduce the size of the images, I think I'll stop reproducing them here.
I do, however, want to add some personal thoughts.
Completing the disengagement from Gaza will have an important impact on Israeli society. The settlers and their allies want to make the disengagement as difficult as possible so as to innoculate themselves against further withdrawals from the West Bank. But the innoculation won't take. The Israeli mainstream is learning graphically that the settlers put themselves above the democratic authority of the state and their well-being above the well-being of ordinary Israelis living within the Green Line.
While Sharon probably wants the disengagement to be the end of the road (or, at least, to buy him time to secure his domestic political position), the above analysis suggests that it is more likely to be a new beginning, provided a majority of Israelis believe they have a genuine alternative to just standing fast, which means they must come to believe that they have a credible negotiating partner in the Palestinian leadership. For that to come about, the Palestinian Authority needs to be seen to be vigorously, and mostly successfullly, putting an end to anti-Israel terrorism.
The Martilla-ADL poll suggests that such an effort is vitally important with Americans, too. The more effective the Palestinian Authority is seen to be in trying to end terror, the more support Palestinians will enjoy among Americans for a Palestinian state.
If this argument is correct, then it follows that -- at least for those, like myself, who want a defintive, two-state peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people -- as soon as the disengagement is completed, the U.S. should use its influence to persuade Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations, and toward that end should emphasize to the Palestinian leadership the importance of working vigorously against terrorism.
It's not enough simply to give peace a chance. Peace must be worked for.