Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's waffling on the idea of a Palestinian state comes as the idea is less popular in the United States than it has been in at least two decades.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that the idea of establishing a new Palestinian state alongside Israel in the Middle East is more divisive than at any point in the past 20 years, as a long period of generally bipartisan support for the concept has passed.
The idea is still slightly above water, with 39 percent in support and 36 percent in opposition. But that's a far cry from past Gallup polling in which a majority of Americans supported the idea (as many as 58 percent in 2003).
The 39 percent who support the idea is the lowest that number has been in WaPo-ABC and Gallup polling since 1998, and the three-point gap between support and opposition is the smallest in at least two decades — though not statistically significant relative to other recent polls from Gallup.
The poll comes as the creation of a Palestinian state — long a goal of U.S. foreign policy — emerged late as a key issue in the Israeli election. Netanyahu's Likud Party won the most seats in the election, allowing him to form the next government and continue as prime minister.
Just weeks before the election, Netanyahu appeared to reverse his stated pledge to pursue a two-state solution to end Israel's decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories with the creation of a new state next to Israel. Shortly after his victory, though, Netanyahu backed off that position and said he would continue to pursue the two-state ideal, while adding that he didn't foresee such an effort bearing fruit any time soon.
Shortly before his reelection, Netanyahu delivered a speech to Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — an invitation that ran counter to the wishes of the Obama administration, which worried that the visit could poison ongoing negotiations with Iran over restricting its nuclear program.
The new poll shows Americans are at once supportive of such an agreement — they support the concept 59 percent to 31 percent — but are not optimistic that it would succeed in reigning in Iran's nuclear program. Thirty-seven percent say they are confident that it would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while 59 percent are not confident.
A Pew poll released Monday showed a similar dichotomy.
Views of the two-state solution are somewhat partisan, but not overwhelmingly so. While 33 percent of independents and Democrats oppose it, 50 percent of Republicans do. An additional 31 percent of Republicans support the idea, while 41 percent of independents and Democrats do.
Obama's rocky relationship with Netanyahu continues to color views of his work with Israel. The new poll shows 38 percent approve of Obama's work on that front, while 50 percent disapprove.