The Pew Research Center on Monday evaluated recent polling on American sentiments regarding the peace process in general, and administration efforts to pursue a U.S.-backed framework agreement between the parties in particular, as President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in the Oval Office to discuss issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Iranian nuclear program. Pew noted that despite public signals that Obama “intends to press [Netanyahu] to help move Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations to a ‘conclusive round,’” Americans were divided on the degree to which the administration should be focusing on the dispute.
Until now, Obama has not been as personally involved as some presidents had been in peacekeeping efforts, although Secretary of State John Kerry has made the goal of a comprehensive peace agreement one of his top priorities. But about four-in-ten (39%) of Americans say the U.S. should be less involved in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute compared with 36% who say it should remain is involved as it is now, according to a survey conducted last fall. About a fifth (21%) of Americans say the U.S. should be more involved.
U.S. support for Israel remains high, and it cuts across partisan and religious lines. About half (49%) of Americans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians in their dispute, while just 12% sympathize with the Palestinians and 12% say they back neither side, according to a March 2013 survey.
An interview given by the President to Bloomberg on the eve of the talks – described by veteran Israeli journalist David Horovitz as “a bombshell battering” of the Prime Minister – saw Obama placing substantial blame on Netanyahu for uneven progress in current Israeli-Palestinian talks. Horovitz noted that the interview, which also saw Obama sketching out scenarios for Israel’s diplomatic isolation, was a move that “might be considered bad manners, poor diplomatic protocol, a resounding preemptive slap in the face,” and more substantively that it was “just about the last thing likely to bolster the prime minister’s confidence in their alliance, and just about the last thing likely to encourage Netanyahu to further alienate his hawkish home base by taking steps such as halting building outside the settlement blocs.”
The Oval Office meeting itself reportedly went smoothly:
Speaking to the press, Obama said that there is strong bipartisan support for Israel’s security and that the two-state solution is still possible. Obama praised Netanyahu’s intensive efforts in the talks and reiterated his commitment to assuring Iran does not become a nuclear power…An Israeli official said prior to the meeting of the two leaders that “there are tensions between the two. Obama’s interview (with Bloomberg) heightened tensions.”