Poll Finds Americans’ Divide on Israel-Palestine Widening

(CN) – Americans are more divided today than at any point in the last four decades on where their sympathies lie in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.

While 79 percent of Republicans today say they sympathize more with Israel than with Palestinians, only 27 percent of Democrats feel the same, according to the results of a Pew survey of more than 1,500 people conducted this month.

White evangelical Protestants, who overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump, are especially supportive of Israel. Seventy-eight percent of white evangelicals say they sympathize with Israel, while only 5 percent expressed sympathy for Palestinians.

The survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe Trump is “striking the right balance” in the situation in the Middle East, but 30 percent believe the president favors Israel too much.

The majority of Republicans (73 percent) say Trump is handling the situation in the Middle East well, while only 21 percent of Democrats say the same.

At a similar point in Barack Obama’s presidency, 47 percent of Americans said the former president had struck a proper balance in dealing with the Middle East.

The deep divide between Republicans and Democrats in their views of Israel also extends to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thirty-one percent of Americans overall have a favorable opinion of Israel’s leader, 28 percent have an unfavorable opinion, and 41 percent expressed no opinion of Netanyahu.

A little more than half (52 percent) of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Netanyahu, while a little less than half (49 percent) of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion.

The Pew report comes as Vice President Mike Pence wrapped-up his four-day tour of the Middle East. In a speech at the Knesset Monday, the vice president announced plans to open a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, moving it from Tel Aviv, by the end of 2019.

Pence was greeted warmly by Netanyahu, who said in a press statement that the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a “powerful expression of the enduring bond” between the two countries.

Nearly half of Americans say that a two-state solution is possible in the Middle East, according to the Pew report. Forty-nine percent of respondents say that a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state “to coexist peacefully,” while 39 percent believe this is not possible.

However, the Trump administration’s plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem has undermined the U.S.’s role as a neutral arbitrator between Israel and Palestinians, which could jeopardize the peace process.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the Trump administration’s plan a “gift to extremists” and tweeted that the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has “proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution.”

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