Attitudes to the Israel-Palestine conflict in Western Europe and the USA in 2023

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 03, 2023, 9:48 AM GMT+0

There is support in all countries for a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict

A new YouGov Eurotrack poll examines attitudes to the Israel-Palestine conflict in seven Western European countries as well as the USA.

How much does the Israel-Palestine conflict matter to people in Western Europe and the US?

A great many across the West care little or not at all about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Germans are the most likely to say that the conflict doesn’t matter much to them, or at all, at 73%. Italians are the least likely to say so, at 35%. Here in Britain, 56% say they aren’t particularly interested. On top of this, a further 10-22% answered “don’t know”.

Americans, Spaniards and Italians are the most likely to say the conflict matters a ‘great deal’ or a ‘fair amount’ to them, at 43-44%. In the case of the US and Spain, this is effectively tied with the 42-44% that don’t care much or at all – only in Italy do noticeably more people say they care than not.

That a significant portion of the public have little interest in international affairs like the Israel-Palestine conflict is a consistent finding in opinion polling. As a result, it is no surprise that there are high proportions of people replying “don’t know” to questions throughout the survey, reaching more than half of respondents in some cases.

Which side in the Israel-Palestine conflict do people sympathise with more?

Fewer than half of people in each country pick a side in the conflict: when asked which side they sympathise with more, a majority either say “don’t know” (34-48%) or “both sides equally” (19-24%).

Among those with a view, there is a tendency to come down more on the Palestinian side. The exception is Germany, where people are split 17% with more sympathy for the Israeli side and 15% the Palestinian.

In the US, by contrast, there is clearly more sympathy for the Israelis, at 29% to 15%.

When asked who they think their national government sympathises with more, there is a notably greater sense in each country that it is Israel (except in Spain, where people split evenly between Israel and Palestine). Again, however, a large number of people are unsure (36-56%).

One notable finding from the results is that in several of the European countries surveyed those who sympathise more with the Palestinian side are much more likely to say that the conflict in the region matters to them. For instance, in France 73% of those who are more pro-Palestinian say the conflict matters, compared to 50% of those who are more pro-Israeli. In Britain those figures are 59% and 35% respectively.

By contrast, in the USA, Italy and Germany there is little distinction between the two sides. In the US and Italy 63-68% of each group say the conflict matters to them, while in Germany the figures are much lower, mattering to 36% of those who sympathise more with the Palestinians and 30% of those who sympathise more with the Israelis.

Europeans and Americans back the ‘two-state solution’ for the Israel-Palestine conflict

The dominant proposal for peace in the conflict is a ‘two-state solution’, which would see an independent state of Palestine coexisting alongside the state of Israel. There have been numerous attempts to bring such a solution into being, including the 1991 Madrid Conference, 1993 Oslo Accords, 2000 Camp David Summit, 2002’s Arab Peace Initiative, and most recently the 2013-14 Israel-Palestine peace talks.

Such a resolution is popular in the West, with at least half in each country (51-60%) support a ‘two state solution’ to the conflict, with just 6-15% opposed.

An alternative ‘one state solution’, whereby a settlement is reached for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in a single state, is rejected, with only 17-29% in each country saying they would support it, in each case a lower figure than the number opposed (31-43%).

What is clear is that the current situation is unsatisfactory – only 9-20% support things remaining as they are.

Looking only at those who say the Israel-Palestine conflict matters a great deal or fair amount to them – who are likely to be more knowledgeable on the issue than those for whom it matters little or not at all – shows the same trend. A majority (66-76%) support a two-state solution, while far fewer back a one-state solution (25-39%) or things remaining as they are (10-27%).

A two-state solution is also preferred by a majority of both those who lean pro-Israel (58-85%) and those who lean pro-Palestine (69-80%) in every country surveyed.

Western Europeans and Americans tend to support recognition for an independent Palestinian state

Given that there is support for a two-state solution, it is no surprise therefore that there is also plurality support in each country for the recognition of a Palestinian state – although Sweden is the only country surveyed to have actually done so. Between 31-48% of people in each country say their government should recognise Palestine as an independent state, while 8-20% say it should not.

Among those Europeans who say the Israel-Palestine conflict matters to them a lot, a majority (54-67%) say Palestinian statehood should be recognised. In the US support is 46% to 26%.

While the large majority of those who take a more pro-Palestinian stance unsurprisingly support recognition of Palestine as an independent state (72-87%), only a minority of those who take a more pro-Israeli stance say the same (13-34%) – except in Italy, where pro-Israelis support Palestinian statehood by 50% to 27%.

That there is majority support for a two-state solution among those who are more pro-Israel in each country, but much lower support for immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood, suggests there are preconditions these groups feel are yet to be met – likely at least a commitment from groups like Hamas to renounce violence, as well as affirmation of Israel’s right to exist.

Few are optimistic that there will be a permanent peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians in coming decades

Numerous attempts to broker a lasting peace in the region have been made over the years. It has been three decades now since the Oslo Accords, which would lead to the Palestinians achieving self-governance in the Gaza Strip and areas of the West Bank.

Progress has stalled since then, and it is no surprise to see that few Europeans and Americans (11-26%) believe that such a permanent peace agreement is likely in the next 20 years, including only 2-7% who think it is “very likely”.

At least half in each country (51-66%) consider it unlikely that a final peace settlement will have been reached two decades from now. Those who say the conflict matters a lot to them are likewise pessimistic: 58-71% say such a peace deal is unlikely.

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