This is huge. If the two-state paradigm collapses, an overwhelming majority of Americans would support one democratic state.
Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland commissioned a poll that he reports today in Foreign Policy, with this headline and the graph below:
America Has a Plan. And, No, It Isn’t One That Israel Would Like.
Telhami explains that American politicians are wed to the two-state solution, but the public is more free-thinking.
A public opinion survey I commissioned, which was conducted by the polling firm GfK, found that U.S. popular support for a two-state solution is surprisingly tepid. What’s more, if the option is taken off the table, Americans support the creation of a single democratic state — in what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories — in which Jews and Arabs are granted equal rights. The GfK survey consisted of 1,000 interviews conducted through an Internet panel and was weighted to ensure that the results were consistent with several demographic variables, such as age, education, and income.
The Obama administration’s focus on mediating an end to the conflict has been predicated on two assumptions — that a two-state solution is in the national security interest of the United States, and that the current diplomatic efforts may be the last chance to achieve it. Americans themselves, however, are more lukewarm on the possibility of Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side: fewer than four in 10 survey respondents preferred a two-state solution…
Telhami’s numbers are a bit complex: When Americans are asked what solution they favor, they go for the two-state outcome over a one-state paradigm by 39-24 (with another 24 percent supporting occupation/annexation). But if the two-state solution is not available, Telhami found that nearly two-thirds of those two-staters turned to a one-state option; and overall Americans would be for a single democracy by roughly two-to-one.
Without addressing the lobby directly, Telhami says that politicians will be in “paralyzing” crisis, unable to embrace a one-state model despite the people’s support. “At the moment, it is not politically feasible to advocate for a one-state solution with equal citizenship,” he writes.
So what does it all mean? It means that if the two-state solution fails, the conversation among the American public might shift to that of a one-state solution as the next-best thing. If American officials feel pressured to respond to this, it will likely create tension in U.S.-Israeli relations….
For U.S. officials, the effect would be paralyzing — American leaders simply wouldn’t know what to advocate if two states were not on the table. …
This dilemma may partially be driving Washington’s current diplomatic push. And if the Obama administration’s efforts fail, it is unlikely that American leaders would do anything but pretend that the two-state solution was still on the table. No American politician wants to choose between Israel’s democracy and its Jewishness — even if the polls show that the choice is clear to the American people.
Pretending neatly rationalizes paralysis, but it would not hide the naked truth for most people….The American people are clear about their views: Occupation and unequal citizenship are a losing cause.
This poll is fascinating because, whether or not the polled Americans are sophisticated about these issues, it reveals how backward the US political conversation and the American Jewish conversation are. Max Blumenthal can go out and endorse liberal American views— that we now see to be widespread– and his book is ignored by the New York Times, and he’s denounced by Israel lobbyists. Norman Finkelstein outlined this conservative reality 18 months ago: he said that the only political reality is the two-state solution because American Jews will not support the end of the Jewish state. The Telhami poll suggests the fierce urgency of the Blumenthal position: communicating liberal American attitudes to the Jewish community, and getting American Jews to abandon their support for Jewish nationalism in a discriminatory society that they don’t want to live in themselves. So that the politicians can begin to reflect American attitudes amid the rubble of the two-state solution.
This is also a rebuke to Michael Oren and David Brooks and the other hasbarists who say that Americans love Israel. They seem to love democracy more.