A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey.
The nationwide poll, released Tuesday, shows 63% of Americans say it was a bad move for congressional leadership to extend the invitation without giving President Barack Obama a heads up that it was coming. Only 33% say it was the right thing to do.
And as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to simmer in the Middle East, the survey found that a similar majority thinks the U.S. should stay out of that fight altogether.
House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu sparked a minor international incident and further strained already tense relations between the U.S. and Israeli leaders. Netanyahu is expected to make the case to Congress next month for increased sanctions on Iran, a key point of contention between the Israeli leader and Obama, who has been urging Congress to hold off on further sanctions for fear of jeopardizing nuclear talks with the nation.
Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit because the trip comes too close to Israel’s elections. A growing number of Democrats in both chambers have announced over the past two weeks that they won’t be attending the speech, prompting some to question whether the Israeli leader should cancel or move his speech.
Though the speech has become a partisan issue on Capitol Hill, even Republicans are split on whether it was a good idea for leadership to invite Netanyahu without alerting the White House, with a slight majority — 52% — backing the move. Just 14% of Democrats say it was the right thing to do, and just over a third of independents support the move.
But Americans overall believe the U.S. should stay out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 66% in the new poll advocating the U.S. remain neutral. Of those who do support picking a side, the majority, 29%, back Israel, while only 2% support Palestine.
Even Republicans, typically seen as the party offering the strongest defense of Israel, are split on whether the U.S. should officially support Israel in the conflict. Forty-nine percent support backing the nation, while 47% say the U.S. should stay out of it.
And a significant age gap suggests U.S. sentiment may, in the long term, be moving further in favor of neutrality in the conflict. While 56% of those age 50 or older believe the U.S. should stay out of the Israeli-Palestinian fight, that number skyrockets to 75% of Americans under age 50.
The survey was conducted among 1,027 adult Americans from Feb. 12-15 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.