Washington, November 16: US public support for Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza is eroding and most Americans think Israel should call a ceasefire to a conflict that has ballooned into a humanitarian crisis, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll that was completed on Tuesday.
Some 68% of respondents said they agreed with a statement that “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”
About three-quarters of Democrats and half of Republicans in the poll supported the idea of a ceasefire, putting them at odds with Joe Biden, who has rebuffed calls from Arab leaders, including Palestinians, to pressure Israel into a ceasefire.
While most moderate Democrats in Congress have long supported military assistance to Israel, some progressives in Biden’s own party have started to question whether there should be greater scrutiny as well as conditions attached to such aid.
In a potentially worrisome sign for Israel, just 31% of poll respondents said they supported sending Israel weapons, while 43% opposed the idea. The rest said they were unsure. Support for sending Israel weapons was strongest among Republicans, while roughly half of Democrats were opposed.
By comparison, 41% of people answering the poll said they backed sending weapons to Ukraine in its fight against a nearly 21-month-old Russian invasion, compared to 32% who were opposed and the rest unsure. When it came to Ukraine, support for sending weapons was stronger among Democrats.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online and nationwide, gathering responses from 1,006 US adults.
Israel has long counted on the US, its most powerful ally, for billions of dollars a year in military aid and international diplomatic support. An erosion of US public support could be a worrisome sign for the Middle Eastern country, which faces not only Hamas militants in Gaza but the Hezbollah Islamist movement in Lebanon and has conducted a long-running “shadow war” with Iran, its regional arch-foe.
The drop in US support, seen in the new poll among both Democrats and Republicans and especially among older respondents, follows weeks of heavy Israeli bombardment and ground combat against Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for a 7 October rampage by the Islamist militants in southern Israel. About 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage.
Since then, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, around 40% of them children, in Israel’s assault, according to counts by health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The Gaza crisis has sparked an international outcry that has focused in recent days on the collapsing medical infrastructure in the crowded coastal enclave. Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s biggest hospital were digging a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died under Israeli encirclement.
The Biden administration instead has urged Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, something Israel says it is doing.
Israel has so far rejected any talk of implementing longer pauses or a ceasefire, saying Hamas would only use that time to regroup and harden its positions.