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Netanyahu burned bridges with Democrats. Here's one result.

A new Gallup poll showed Democrats for the first time sympathizing with Palestinians more than Israelis.

According to a poll released Thursday by Gallup, for the first time in its history of polling American attitudes toward Israelis and Palestinians, Democrats are more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis. While a number of factors could explain the shift, the most likely reason should be obvious: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The right-wing Israeli leader has opted to burn his bridges with Democrats and openly root for the Republican Party in general and former President Donald Trump in particular. His partisan attitude, combined with the increasing violence Jewish settlers are perpetrating against Palestinians, helps explain why what was once solidly bipartisan support for Israel is becoming more fractured and nuanced.

Gallup’s new poll finds that, overall, “sympathy toward the Palestinians among U.S. adults is at a new high of 31%” and that Democrats’ “sympathies in the Middle East now lie more with the Palestinians than the Israelis, 49% versus 38%,” an 11-point shift since last year.

Support for the Palestinians ticked up among independents, as well, hitting a new high of 32%, though 49% “still lean towards the Israelis.” It’s worth noting that support for the Israelis among Republicans remains mostly unchanged. According to Gallup, 78% of GOP voters side with the Israelis, compared to just 11% who back the Palestinians.

Americans’ increased sympathy, according to Gallup, isn’t accompanied by a newfound love of the ruling Palestinian Authority. (The poll finds that Americans still “view Israel much more favorably than they do the Palestinian Authority, 68% versus 26%.”) Rather, partisan shifts and the decline in undecideds (only 15% of respondents now favor neither side) explain the narrowing of the gap in support for the Israelis and Palestinians over the last year.

Until recently, support for Israel was a largely bipartisan affair in Washington. A two-state solution and a goal of a peaceful resolution to the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians was something leaders of both parties used to say they were working toward. But Netanyahu laid down the groundwork for this current schism in 1996, during his first term as prime minister, when he clashed with President Bill Clinton, who later accused him of killing the peace process.

When Netanyahu returned to power in 2009 after a decade out of office, it became increasingly clear that he had decided to throw his lot in with the Republican Party. From an ideological standpoint, it made sense — Netanyahu leads the right-wing Likud Party, so it would only make sense that he would lean toward American conservatives, whom he saw as less likely to pressure him to make concessions to the Palestinians and more likely to take a hard-line stance toward Iran and Israel’s other Muslim adversaries.

That second premiership coincided with President Barack Obama’s first term, and he and Obama clashed repeatedly over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. As Obama was running for re-election in 2012, Netanyahu even showed his support for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  In 2015, Netanyahu gave a joint address to the Republican-controlled Congress without even giving Obama’s White House a heads-up that he was visiting, a decision that was correctly interpreted as an intentional snub.

Though Trump’s commitment to Israel was first viewed as somewhat wobbly, he quickly disabused the public of the notion that he was going to be neutral in his dealings with the Israelis and the Palestinians. He moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, and the next year he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights, which Israel had first captured in 1973. It was widely seen as a ploy from Trump to shore up support not from American Jews but from white evangelicals, whose interest in Israel can fairly be described as apocalyptic in nature, ahead of his re-election campaign.

There was an unspoken quid pro quo, in which in exchange for Trump’s endorsing Netanyahu’s re-election bid, the prime minister would return the favor. And so, in 2020, Netanyahu called Trump “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” The Israeli decision to block two Muslim leaders, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who is Palestinian American, and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who was born in Somalia, from traveling to Israel for an official visit in 2019 was also a move clearly intended as a thank-you from Netanyahu to Trump, who has targeted the lawmakers with vitriol.

Netanyahu’s obvious favoritism for Republicans and a shift in the Democratic Party’s makeup have resulted in more room for debate over what the Democrats’ stance toward Israel should be. The progressive wing has been resurgent as part of the backlash to Trump, and the original members of “the squad” — including Omar and Tlaib — have been outspoken in their criticism of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians under their rule.

Netanyahu has hastened the transformation of once unassailable American support for Israel into a partisan issue.

At the same time, the way we talk about the conflict is changing. It’s becoming more common for social media users, for example, to call out news outlets for their one-sided, passive-voice-riddled coverage of the Israeli occupation. The word “apartheid” has finally become less taboo when describing Israeli subjugation of Palestinians, especially as more and more human rights groups have embraced the term. The change in the way we talk about the conflict most likely explains why the biggest change in attitudes is among millennials, who “are now evenly divided, with 42% sympathizing more with the Palestinians and 40% with the Israelis,” according to Gallup.

That age bracket is likely also more sympathetic than their elders because it has seen the policy shifts — or lack thereof — toward the Palestinians since it first came of political age. Gaza has been blockaded for the last two decades, and I’ve lost count of the number of incursions and bombings since then. Meanwhile, Jewish settler violence is on the rise, and the far-right governing coalition under Netanyahu threatens to do away with any pretense of equal rights for Arab citizens in Israel, let alone fair treatment of West Bank residents.

But there’s most likely no bigger factor for Democrats’ increased sympathy for Palestinians than Netanyahu’s ongoing embrace of the GOP and Trump. In his decision to embrace one party over the other, he has hastened the transformation of once unassailable American support for Israel into a partisan issue. This ongoing bifurcation has in turn seemingly prompted more members of the Democratic Party to view the Israeli occupation and treatment of Palestinians through a critical lens.

It’s doubtful Gallup’s poll will cause Netanyahu to rethink his dismissal of the Democrats, even amid calls for America to rethink its support for his government. But even if Netanyahu doesn’t change his approach, Democratic leaders, who still reflexively spar with the GOP over who loves Israel more, should take the poll as a prompt for some much-needed introspection. The members of their party are trying to tell them something — it’d be wise for them to listen.