Foreign Policy Blogs

Bruce Stokes: “Americans Simply Don’t Care About Peace in the Middle East”


Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Public Attitudes at the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C., published an article titled, “Americans Simply Don’t Care About Peace in the Middle East” in Foreign Policy on May 9, which shows how Americans are skeptical about and uninterested in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The following are some important excerpts from his article:

Americans simply do not believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes a major threat to the United States. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October-November 2013, only 3 percent of the public expressed the view that the Middle East and Israel represented the greatest danger to America. China (16 percent) and Iran (16 percent) registered as much bigger concerns.

Even before the apparent breakdown in the Kerry initiative, Americans were divided over whether a way could be found to craft a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East; moreover, what support existed for this effort was rapidly waning. Overall, just 46 percent of respondents said an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully with Israel, while 44 percent expressed the view that they did not think this can happen, according to a late April Pew Research Center survey. A year earlier, 50 percent thought it was possible for an independent Palestinian state to exist peacefully alongside Israel, 41 percent did not.

In this regard, Americans weren’t uniquely pessimistic — they simply shared the skepticism of both Israelis and Palestinians: only 50 percent of Israelis and just 14 percent of Palestinians believed that a peaceful two-state solution was possible in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2013.

Stokes goes on to mention how differences in American political preferences affect one’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue:

U.S. diplomatic efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East are further complicated by sharp partisan differences on the issue among the American people. Roughly two-thirds (68 percent) of Republicans sympathize more with Israel compared with 46 percent of Democrats (just 15 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans sympathize more with the Palestinians). The opinion gap is especially large between the two party’s ideological wings: 75 percent of conservative Republicans sympathize more with Israel, compared with only 41 percent of liberal Democrats.

Republicans have been particularly skeptical about the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution. Just 34 percent thought a way could be found for this to happen in the late April 2014 survey. Independents (50 percent) and Democrats (52 percent) were more optimistic that a solution could be found. Liberal Democrats (59 percent) were more likely than the Democratic Party’s conservatives and moderates (47 percent) to say an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully alongside Israel.

Also striking are Pew Research Center’s findings on how American Jews view the peace process conducted between February and June 2013:

Many American Jews express reservations about Israel’s approach to the peace process. Just 38% say the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians. (Fewer still – 12% – think Palestinian leaders are sincerely seeking peace with Israel.) And just 17% of American Jews think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security; 44% say that settlement construction hurts Israel’s own security interests.

Does the fact that Americans care less mean anything for the near future? It should mean United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative in the Middle East will most likely not be repeated any time soon. The American people would rather see it’s government direct attention to more “pressing” global crises than oversee another Israeli-Palestinian peace project.



Samantha Quint

My name is Samantha, I’m 25, and I made Aliyah in June 2013. I got my BA degree from George Washington University where I studied Jewish Studies and Middle East Studies. During my Junior year, I spent the traditional semester abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since then Israel kept pulling me back, first with a summer professional course on peacemaking in Jerusalem and the West Bank and then a move to Tel Aviv to get my MA in Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston. I have a unyielding passion for traveling, Boston sports teams, and making the people around me laugh.