|AP Photo/Andrew Harnik|
10 May '16..
For a presidential candidate to take a pro-Israel stand in the middle of a campaign is not generally considered going out on a limb. So when, at the prompting of a Jewish group, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter opposing the BDS — boycott, divest, sanctions — movement that targets Israel, she was merely doing what almost all candidates, both Republican and Democrat, have done in recent decades. Though it can be dismissed as a transparent pander, Clinton’s statement may do some good. The former secretary of state is a Methodist and by taking such a public stand only a week ahead of that church’s General Conference slated to be held next week in Portland, Oregon, it’s possible that she may shame some delegates into opposing resolutions that support BDS. But while no one should consider Clinton’s letter to be an act of courage, it does illustrate the stark divide within the Democratic Party over Israel and the efforts by some on the left to wage economic war on the Jewish state.
Just days before Clinton’s letter (which was sent to the Jewish Action Network that wrote to her rather than to the Methodists themselves), the Pew Research Center released a new poll that illustrates both the continuing depth of broad-based support for Israel in the United States as well as the widening split within the Democratic Party on the question. The results place Clinton’s statement about BDS very much in the mainstream of American opinion while at the same time as putting her in the minority among the liberal base of the Democratic Party.
The Pew results show that when it comes to the Middle East conflict, a clear majority of Americans still view Israel more sympathetically than the Palestinians. Overall, 54 percent back the Israelis while only 19 percent are on the side of the Palestinians. Israel retains the support of a majority within every age group, all educational levels, and even among the supporters of both major parties and independents. The highest levels of support come from Republicans (75 percent) and conservatives (79 percent).
A much lower percentage of Democrats — 43 percent — back Israel than the Republicans, but that is still higher than the 29 percent that are sympathetic to the Palestinians. But the real problem for Israel is apparent when you break down the numbers to those who identify as liberals as well as Bernie Sanders supporters. Among self-identified liberals, a plurality backs the Palestinians over Israel by a margin of 40 to 33 percent. Large majorities of supporters of the three Republican candidates that were still in the race at the time the poll was taken are sympathetic to Israel including 77 percent of those that back Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton voters were less supportive with only 47 percent backing Israel. But take another step to the left and you see that more of Bernie Sanders supporters back the Palestinians by a margin of 39 to 33 percent.
What does this mean?
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