New poll on American attitudes towards Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and recent war in besieged Gaza finds liberal Democrats wanting more support for Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for Israelis.

Protesters hold placards and banners in London, on May 22, 2021, as they take part in a rally supporting Palestinians.
Protesters hold placards and banners in London, on May 22, 2021, as they take part in a rally supporting Palestinians. (AP)

A new poll on American attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East has found that about half of Democrats want the US to do more to support the Palestinians, showing that a growing rift among Democratic lawmakers is also reflected in the party's base.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds differences within both the Democratic and the Republican parties on the US approach toward Israel and the Palestine, with liberal Democrats wanting more support for the Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for the Israelis.

The survey also examined Americans' opinions on the Biden administration's handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The survey was conducted about three weeks into a ceasefire following a devastating 11-day war last month between Israel and Palestine in besieged Gaza. 

Israeli strikes killed at least 254 Palestinians, many of them children and women. Some13 people died in Israel.

Americans divided over US policy 

The poll shows Americans overall are divided over US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. It also shows more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict than approve of it.

Among Democrats, 51 percent say the US is not supportive enough of the Palestinians. The sentiment jumps to 62 percent among Democrats who describe themselves as liberal. 

On the other hand, 49 percent of Republicans say the US is not supportive enough of the Israelis, a number that rises to 61 percent among those who say they’re conservative.

Overall, the poll shows that 29 percent of Americans say the US is too supportive of the Israelis, 30 percent say it's not supportive enough and 36 percent say it's about right. 

In its approach toward the Palestinians, 25 percent say the US is too supportive, 32 percent say it's not supportive enough and 37 percent say it's about right.

Biden's handling of recent war 

Broad but not unvarying support for Israel has been a tenet of US domestic politics, as well as its foreign policy, for decades. 

Biden refrained from publicly criticising Israel over civilian deaths and waited until the last days of war last month to openly press Israel to wind down its air strikes on heavily populated Gaza.

The war highlighted differences among Democratic lawmakers and between some Democratic lawmakers and Biden on Israel policy. 

Dozens of Democrats in Congress called for Israel and Hamas to ceasefire immediately, days before Biden openly did. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive Vermont independent, urged the US to be more even-handed in its approach to the conflict.

The poll found 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 40 percent who approve. While 75 percent of Republicans disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, so do 35 percent of Democrats.

Forty-two percent of liberal Democrats say they disapprove of how Biden is handling the conflict, compared with 31 percent of moderate and conservative ones.

That’s compared with just 9 percent of Democrats who disapproved of how Biden is handling his job in general. Overall, Biden’s job approval rating stands at 55 percent.

Since the ceasefire, Israel has transitioned to a new government that says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the US for Israel. 

Benjamin Netanyahu, the former longtime prime minister, had openly challenged both Biden and President Barack Obama on US policy in the Middle East and was seen as allying himself to Trump.

US role in possible solution 

Some of the respondents in the survey, both Democratic and Republican, cited the comparatively limited timespan of the war — in comparison, 50 days of fighting in 2014 killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people on the Israeli side — in saying they approved of Biden’s handling of the conflict.

The poll also shows just 19 percent of Americans think the US should play a major role in finding a solution to the conflict, while 50 percent say it should play a minor role and 28 percent say it should play no role. 

Democrats and Republicans are largely in agreement on the size of the US role in the conflict.

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, say they think there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, compared with 39 percent who say there is not a way. 

About 2 out of 3 Democrats think there is a way. Republicans are closely divided, with 50 percent saying there is and 45 percent saying there is not.

Source: AP