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For first time, more US Democrats sympathise with Palestinians than Israelis

A poll by Gallup marks an eleven point increase in Democrats’ sympathy towards Palestinians over the past year
Protesters in Washington rally in support of Palestinian rights on 15 May 2021 (MEE/Umar Farooq)
Protesters in Washington rally in support of Palestinian rights on 15 May 2021 (MEE/Umar Farooq)

Democrats in the US are more likely to sympathise with Palestinians than with Israelis for the first time since 2001, a new poll has found.

For the poll released on Thursday by Gallup, Democrat voters were asked: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?"

In response, 49 percent said that they sympathised more with the Palestinians and 38 percent sympathised more with the Israelis.

There has been an eleven-point increase over the past year in sympathy toward Palestinians from those who voted Democrat. 

Meanwhile, the same voters' sympathy for Israelis has been on the decline for more than a decade, since a high point in 2014 when 58 percent sympathised with Israelis and only 23 percent with Palestinians. 

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The shift is the first since the poll started 22 years ago.

Israeli violence against Palestinians has been on the rise since the beginning of 2023, with at least 85 people killed, including 16 children, by Israeli forces and settlers, making it the bloodiest start to a year since 2000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Meanwhile, Israel's right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has seemingly burned bridges with many Democrats in the US by openly aligning with the Republican Party in general and former President Donald Trump in particular.

Israel is currently experiencing a political crisis that has pitted Netanyahu’s far-right government against the country’s civil society, academic, and business elite, as well as former government ministers and military figures.

The prime minister is also spearheading a controversial plan to overhaul Israel's justice system, a move that has seen weeks of mass protests across the country. 

Independents and Republicans

Sympathy toward the Palestinians also hit a new high among political independents, with 32 percent sympathising with Palestinians, according to the poll.

However, more independents still lean toward Israelis, with 49 percent showing sympathy.  

Meanwhile, support for Israelis among Republicans remains mostly unchanged, with 78 percent showing sympathy towards Israel compared to just 11 percent who back the Palestinians.

Gallup’s new poll finds that, overall, "sympathy toward the Palestinians among US adults is at a new high of 31%".

For decades support for Israel was a largely bipartisan affair in Washington. But the polarisation of American and Israeli politics has resulted in sharper dividing lines emerging over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Despite an increased willingness among those who vote Democrat to criticise Israel, US President Biden has continued his predecessors' nearly unquestioning support for the Israeli government.

Earlier this month the US condemned comments made by Israel's finance minister when he called for the Palestinian village of Huwwara to be "wiped out", and said the remarks were "repugnant, irresponsible, and disgusting".

Such repudiations, however, are not frequent. 

According to Gallup, the most consequential changes in public opinion on the questions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have occurred in the past five years, as support for the Palestinians has ticked up and support for Israel - as well as ambivalence about the conflict - have both declined.

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