WASHINGTON – A large majority of the American public think the US should leave it to the Israelis and Palestinians to work out a peace deal rather than play a leading role, according to a poll published in The Washington Post on Monday.

The poll also found Americans sympathize with Israelis much more than with Palestinians and that about a third more of the public thinks the Obama administration is putting too little pressure on Palestinians than those who feel too little pressure is being put on Israelis.

At the same time, an Israeli Democracy Institute survey released Monday found that a majority of Jewish lsraelis, 54 percent, do not trust US President Barack Obama to consider and safeguard Israel’s interests (45% do), and a still larger group – 62% – do not believe Obama has the ability to bring about a real breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (37% do).

Americans said their sympathies were more with Israel than with the Palestinian Authority by a 55% to 9% margin, with 35% expressing no opinion, according The Washington Post- ABC poll of 1,001 adults conducted on March 7-10 with a +/- 3.5% margin of error.

The poll also found a plurality of 41% agreeing that the Obama administration was applying the right amount of pressure on Israel, with 17% thinking it was applying too much pressure and 21% that it was applying too little.

Regarding Palestinians, however, only 8% of the population thought the administration was applying too much pressure, with 38% saying it was about the right amount and 34% saying it was too little.

Asked whether the US should or shouldn’t take a leading role in trying to forge a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, 69% said the US should leave it to the parties, with only 26% saying it should play a lead role. That was a significant change from April 2002, when a similar poll found that 54% of Americans though a deal should be left to the parties and 42% thought there should be major US involvement.

White House officials have repeatedly said that Obama won’t be bringing a new peace plan with him when he makes his first visit to Israel as president on Wednesday, but rather will be trying to gauge where the sides stand and what moves they’d be willing to take for peace.

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Obama, said Monday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that he believed the White House was sincere about not bringing a plan. But he said that the visit itself makes clear the president’s continued interest in the region and seeing a peace settlement.

“The trip itself sends a signal that he retains an interest in this,” he said. “If he were washing his hands of it, he wouldn’t be taking a trip there.” Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, standing beside US Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department Monday after their meeting, conveyed the international community’s perspective that intense US engagement is needed.

“The only way we’re going to advance this great goal, this noble goal of an historic settlement between Israelis and Palestinians is with American leadership,” he said.

Kerry, however, took a more cautious approach.

He emphasized that both he and the president understand the importance of a peace deal to regional stability and will “listen” to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government for their thoughts on the road ahead.

“The question is: Are the parties to this conflict prepared, both of them, to come to the table and negotiate in good faith and with urgency to try to resolve this?” he continued.

“We obviously, after all of these years, approach this with continued hopes, but also with a sense of the reality of the difficulties that lie in the way and the need to renew our efforts.”

A little more than half (53%) of the Israeli Jews surveyed in the IDI poll believe Obama is balanced in his approach, with 23% thinking he is more pro- Palestinian and 18% thinking he is more pro-Israel. A similar number, 51%, see Obama as neutral in his stance toward Israel, with 36% seeing him as friendly and 11% seeing him as hostile.

The IDI poll was conducted from March 11-14 of 60 respondents constituting a representative sample of Israel’s adult population. The margin of error is +/- 4.5%.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger