Over twice as many Americans agree with Israel’s claim that they are not primarily to blame for the failure of the Middle East peace process than those who agree with the Palestinian claim that moving toward a unity government with Hamas is a step toward peace, according to a new poll by The Israel Project.
The poll was conducted May 2-4, 2014, among a national sample of 1595 likely voters in the 2014 midterm election. The interviews were conducted online by Survey Sampling International.
The poll focused Palestinian announcement of progress toward a unity government with Hamas, which came just as the nine month American-mediated negotiations neared an end late last month.
46 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Israel says that it cannot be expected to negotiate with a government or party that does not recognize its right to exist and seeks to destroy it.”
In contrast, only 18 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “The Palestinians say that a unity government of all Palestinians is the first step to lasting peace.”
Seniors and Republicans were the strongest supporters of the Israeli position. When the question of who is to blame for the breakdown of the talks was posed, 48 percent of respondents agreed with the Israeli explanation while 20 percent agreed with the Palestinian position.
The debate over who is primarily to blame for the breakdown of talks has become heated in the past week following comments last week by Kerry’s special envoy Martin Indyk, who commented extensively on the breakdown of talks at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and placed blame on both parties.
"Rampant settlement activity– especially in the midst of negotiations— doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations… It can undermine Israel’s Jewish future,” Indyk said, placing some blame on Israel.
"Signing accession letters to fifteen international treaties at the very moment when we were attempting to secure the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners was particularly counterproductive," Indyk said, placing some blame on the Palestinians. "And the final step that led to the suspension of the negotiations at the end of April was the announcement of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement while we were working intensively on an effort to extend the negotiations."
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz was in Washington this week and said that Indyk’s attempt to draw equivalence in blaming both sides was misguided, primarily because Israel had never agreed to a settlement freeze.
“Some people try to balance both sides… saying both sides are to be blamed. This is wrong, this is unfair, this is unjust… We obeyed all our commitments in this agreement,” he said. “We know very well who decided to walk away from the negotiating table.”
Josh Block, the CEO of the Israel Project, said the new poll shows that most Americans agree with Steinitz, not Indyk, and don’t believe that blame should be shared equally by both sides.
"Americans simply don't buy efforts being made by some to blame the impasse on Israel,” said Block. “It doesn't matter how old they are, or what party they belong to, voters understand that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turned his back on peace when he abandoned negotiations, turned to the international community to attack Israel, and announced a unity agreement with the Iran-backed terror group Hamas in the middle of Secretary Kerry's effort to keep talks going.”
Overall, 49 percent of Americans responding to the poll had a generally favorable view of Israel while 27 percent had an unfavorable view. In contrast, only 5 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Hamas while 57 percent had an unfavorable view. Only Syria (68%), Iraq (70%), and Iran (73%) had higher levels of unfavorability according to the poll.
"There is no country in the Middle East that Americans distrust more than Iran, and when you turn the question around and ask who in the Middle East we like, the lowest rating goes to Hamas - Iran's Palestinian terrorist proxy -- and Abbas's new allies in rejecting Israel's hand, which is once again extended in peace,” said Block.