TEL AVIV – For the first time in 15 years, liberal Democrats in the U.S. sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel (40 percent versus 33 percent), a new poll from the Pew Research Center found.
Americans as a whole, however, sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians.
Furthermore, Pew found that while a majority of Hillary Clinton supporters backed Israel, Bernie Sanders supporters took the Palestinians’ side by a 39-33 margin.
According to Vox, there are a number of reasons for the sudden upsurge in support for the Palestinians, not least of which is the ongoing tension between President Barack Obama, a darling of liberal Democrats, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Several incidents demonstrate the friction between the leaders, including Netanyahu’s open campaigning for Mitt Romney in 2012, his public fight against the Iran nuclear deal, and his alignment with the GOP to secure his now famous speech in Congress on the same issue.
A Pew poll in October 2015 also found that liberal Democrats were overwhelmingly supportive of the Iran deal.
According to the article, Democratic support for Israel has remained unchanged over the past several decades, but the same cannot be said for Republican support, which has dramatically increased. There are several reasons for this, including the rise of the religious right, which sees support for Israel as a matter of faith.
Secondly, most Republican leaders were convinced by neoconservatives that being pro-Israel was a core conservative value. The result was hardline support for the Jewish state, seen at first as a safeguard against communism and later on against jihadism. While Democrats are more open to critiquing Israel on issues such as the settlements, Republican support, the article asserts, is far more unconditional.
However, this is not necessarily good news for Israel for two reasons, related Vox.
First, Israel becomes a partisan issue with each party playing off the other.
This danger will be especially acute when there is a Democrat in the White House and when that president fights with Israel — as presidents from both parties are bound to do. In such moments, Democratic members of Congress may well feel pressured to choose between supporting their president and the GOP’s hard-line vision of what being pro-Israel means. The more this happens, the more Democrats could see support for Israel as a partisan issue and treat it accordingly.
Growing Republican support for Israel will therefore have the adverse effect of distancing the Democrats further, Vox argued.
The article ends with another sobering statistic for Israel if this trend continues: More and more Democrats are identifying themselves as liberal – from 27 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2015.