Poll: Majority of Democrats wants more pressure on Israel

Boy with flag (Ashraf Amra - APA Images)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  March 24, 2021

President Joe Biden has made clear his administration’s staunch support for Israel.

He’s so far failed to roll back the Trump administration’s most damaging attacks on Palestinian rights.

Even before the election, Antony Blinken, now secretary of state, reassured the Israel lobby that under Biden, US funding for Israel’s military would remain unconditional.

Since the election, top Biden officials, including Blinken, have reaffirmed their hostility to BDS – the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

new Gallup poll indicates just how out of step these hard-line anti-Palestinian positions are with the Democratic Party base – further confirmation of long-time trends.

On its face, the poll may appear reassuring for the Israel lobby. Overall, 75 percent of Americans view Israel favourably while 30 percent see the Palestinian Authority – as distinct from the Palestinian people – more favourably.

Similarly, 58 percent of Americans sympathize more with the Israelis – though that is down from 64 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number whose sympathies lie more with the Palestinians has edged up from 19 percent in 2018 to 25 percent today.

But that hides what Israel lobbyists will consider an alarming shift: More than half of Democrats now want the US to put more pressure on Israel than on the Palestinians.

Pressure on Israel

After hitting 50 percent in 2018, the percentage of Americans wanting more pressure placed on the Palestinians has fallen to 44 percent now. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans wanting more pressure on Israel has increased from 27 percent to 34 percent, Gallup states.

That’s a positive trend for Palestinians. But it may not be the most significant result of the poll.

Most of the increase since 2018 in Americans wanting the US to pressure Israel more comes from Democrats, “the majority of whom now take this position,” Gallup states.

The 53 percent of Democrats opting for more pressure on the Israelis is up from 43 percent in 2018, and no more than 38 percent in the decade before that.

This marks “a substantive change in Democrats’ perspective on US policy,” according to Gallup.

Only 29 percent of Democrats now think the US should put more pressure on Palestinians than on the Israelis.

This will horrify lobby groups that have long lamented the steady erosion of support for Israel in the Democratic Party’s base.

The lobby has tried to fight back.

One such effort is Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that attacked progressive standard bearer Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2020 primaries.

Sanders had proposed making US aid to Israel conditional on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Partisan divide

According to the Gallup poll, a narrow majority of Americans – 52 percent – favors Palestinian statehood, while 37 percent oppose it.

Unfortunately, Gallup did not ask about alternatives, like a single democratic state with equal rights, nor did it inquire about views on BDS.

The poll also confirms a sharp partisan divide: 80 percent of Republicans sympathize more with the Israelis, compared with just 10 percent whose sympathies are more with Palestinians.

Yet among Democrats the split is much more even: 43 percent sympathize more with Israel, against 38 percent who sympathize more with Palestinians.

Among Americans identifying as “liberal,” a larger number (44 percent) now sympathizes more with the Palestinians than with Israel (36 percent).

There are also some notable demographic contrasts.

For example, 48 percent of whites think there should be more US pressure on the Palestinians to make compromises, while one-third thinks there should be more pressure on Israel.

But among non-whites, according to Gallup, the number who think US pressure should focus on the Palestinians drops to 38 percent, while 37 percent want to see more pressure on Israel.

Meanwhile, almost half of those aged 55 and up want to see more pressure on the Palestinians, while 34 percent want to see more pressure on Israel.

For those aged 18-34 there is a more even split: 40 percent want more pressure on Palestinians, while 38 percent want Israel to feel more pressure.

All of this means that the battle lines between staunchly pro-Israel Democratic Party elites and a base much more oriented towards justice are going to remain sharp – and that advocacy for Palestinian rights appears to be having an impact.

Ali Abunimah is Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books