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%
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
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
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
“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
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%.