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‘Most Americans don’t want US to push Mideast peace’

New poll finds broad support for Israel in the US; 69% want to leave resolution of the conflict to Israelis and Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House in March 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House in March 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

With just two days left before US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that seven in 10 Americans would prefer to leave peace negotiations to the Israelis and Palestinians rather than see the US take a lead role in trying to resolve the conflict.

According to the survey, while 55% of Americans sympathize with Israel — vs. 9% who support the Palestinians — the majority of Americans would like to let the main protagonists in the conflict come to an agreement without the US at the helm.

Support for Israel was at a record high (66%) among the 65 and over age group.

Preference for the US not to take a leading role increased by 15 percentage points compared to the previous time the poll was conducted 11 years ago, at the height of the Second Intifada. In 2002, 42% of Americans felt the US should lead talks.

The poll found that there was agreement along partisan, ideological, and religious lines that the two sides should be left to handle negotiations themselves.

The poll also found that 34% of Americans believe the Obama administration has put too little pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make concessions and come back to the negotiating table, with 38% feeling that “about the right amount” of pressure was applied. When it comes to Israel, 41% said they felt the US used the right amount of pressure, compared to 17% who felt it was “too much pressure” — a view which peaked among the 65 and over age group.

Earlier this month, a Gallup poll found that American sympathies for Israel are at a 22-year high. In figures gleaned from the polling organization’s early February World Affairs poll, 64 percent of Americans say their sympathies “in the Middle East situation” — Gallup’s term for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace talks — lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Just 12% favor the Palestinians.

Nearly one-quarter, or 23%, said their sympathies lie with both parties or neither, or said they had no opinion.

Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.

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