Two opinion surveys tell us a lot about the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Even those skeptical of the “peace process” often attribute its failure to the Palestinians’ leaders. The Palestinian Authority is, after all, adept at turning down offers for peace and inciting terrorism. But the problem is deeper, a new poll reminds us. The Anti-Defamation League’s international survey finds that the most anti-Semitic places on the planet are the West Bank and Gaza, with 93 percent of the population harboring anti-Semitic stereotypes. (Laos is apparently the least anti-Semitic.) For example, 91 percent think “Jews have too much power in the business world,” while 85 percent think Jews have too much control over the U.S. government and 88 percent think they have too much control over world affairs. Is peace possible between two people when one holds such virulently negative views of the other? It seems highly unlikely. (You can understand the PA’s reluctance to even recognize a Jewish state.)
The second survey suggests that however dense the Obama administration may be, most Americans have figured out exactly what is going on there. A poll conducted for the Israel Project finds likely voters blame the PA for the breakdown in talks by a 48 percent to 20 percent margin. Republicans think so by a huge 65 to 14 percent margin, while Democrats (consistent with this and other polling, an increasing gap between Democrats and Republicans in support for Israel) narrowly agree that the PA (39 percent) is more responsible than Israel (26 percent). (Perhaps too many have been listening to the president’s Middle East neg0tiator Martin Indyk’s grossly inaccurate view of things) The Israel Project pollsters also find:
In the wake of a recent announcement by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he will form a unity government with the Hamas terrorist organization, by lopsided margins voters identified with the argument that Israel “cannot be expected to negotiate with a government or party that does not recognize its right to exist and seeks to destroy it,” rejecting the Palestinian argument that “a unity government of all Palestinians is the first step to lasting peace” (66%-34%).
The survey also found voters draw a clear link between Abbas’s preference for partnership with Hamas and the current collapse in peace talks. By 66% to 33% Americans say Israel “can no longer negotiate with the Palestinian Authority now that they are forming a unity government with Hamas,” and reject the claim – as articulated by a PA spokesperson – that “the choice of unifying the Palestinian people enforces peace, and there is no contradiction whatsoever between reconciliation and negotiations.”
We can draw a few conclusions from all this. First, the problem is not merely the PA leadership but a Palestinian population marinating in a stew of anti-Semitic vitriol and reverence for terrorists. When that changes, perhaps peace will be attainable. Second, the administration’s blame-Israel view is a loser with the American people, even among Democrats. Third, Republicans are overwhelmingly supportive of the Jewish state. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning voters think the United States should be a supporter of Israel, and 42 percent think the United States should be a strong supporter. The more conservative and more religious they are, the more supportive they are. A GOP politician perceived to be weak or indifferent on the U.S.-Israel relationship is going to face overwhelming objections.
On one hand you can say it is remarkable that Democrats in Congress are as pro-Israel as they are considering their base; on the other hand, when the country elects a very liberal president unwilling to ruffle his base’s feathers, there’s a good chance he’s going to be a whole lot less supportive of Israel than have been previous presidents of both parties.