Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Blog
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been one of the most contentious issues in US foreign policy. At dining room tables, friends and family members that otherwise agree on most issues relating to politics are loathe to discuss the topic for fear of igniting a vitriolic exchange. But according to AAI’s most recent poll American Opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2012, for an increasing number of Americans, Israel/ Palestine is not even an afterthought. Conducted in August, the poll shows an increasing number of Americans across all demographics express growing ambiguity or unfamiliarity with some of the core issues of the conflict, including the Right of Return, the final status of Jerusalem, or the appropriate US response to settlements. The percentage of Americans with no opinion on the aforementioned issues have jumped two-fold to 50% since 2010 and that seems to be a result of the decreasing prominence of Israeli-Palestinian peace overtures over the past two years.
So why is this important?
The results of this poll highlight a growing and troubling disconnect between Americans and arguably the most important issue facing the US in the Middle East. But the results can also be interpreted in another way. Unfamiliarity with the conflict is troubling. but ambiguity could signal a potential opportunity to raise awareness about supporting a viable two-state solution. Palestine is at the nexus of tension in the Middle East. And given the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, as well as the Palestinian Authority’s bid for “Non-Member State” status today at the UN, understanding how these two events will affect the regional dynamics and U.S. policy toward the region going forward is of utmost importance. With the uncertainty of America’s role in the Middle East given the fluid situation post Arab Spring, US public sentiment should be focusing on one area where the US does have the ability – at least in theory – to get things done: Israel/Palestine.
Unfortunately, at this juncture, the likelihood of the US taking an active role in brokering a lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is slim and overshadowed by the so called “pivot to Asia.” In the weeks following today’s UN vote, it will be interesting to see if the administration hints at any second-term aspirations regarding Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East region it affects. What is clear and troublesome is that despite the importance of the issue for US interests, the administration’s general detachment from the peace process seems to mirror a parallel sentiment toward the conflict held by the general American public.
Some other key findings of the poll are listed below:
-A plurality of Americans (40%) believe US policy should steer a “middle course” between Israelis and Palestinians.
-43% support a two-state peace plan, a shared Jerusalem and the evacuation of most settlements.
-Democrats and youth 18-29 are aligned on almost all issues, as are Republicans and seniors 65+, except for the issue of dismantling Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
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