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Mideast Peace: Interesting Poll Results

September 18, 2010

I realize polls are not always indicative of true public opinion, but two recent polls caught my attention. The first one was carried out by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Here is a sample of some of the findings:

Two-thirds want US to be neutral in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Americans increasingly accept torture, survey finds

Fewer than one in five Americans would support a US military strike on Iran if the Middle Eastern country continued to pursue its nuclear program in the face of international sanctions, a new poll indicates.

The poll, carried out in June for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, finds 18 percent would support a strike on Iran if the country failed to stop its enrichment of uranium. Forty-one percent would urge further economic sanctions against the country, and 33 percent would support further diplomatic engagement.


The survey (PDF) also finds an electorate that is far less certain of its support of Israel than US political leaders would suggest. By a narrow margin — 50 percent to 47 percent — Americans would oppose the US militarily defending Israel if it were the victim of an unprovoked attack.

If the attack against Israel were retaliation for Israeli military action, even more — 56 percent — would oppose US military intervention, while 38 percent would support it.

Americans “show a rather restrained attitude toward being involved” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the survey states. Fully two-thirds — 66 percent — of those polled want the US to maintain a neutral stance in the conflict, while 28 percent want to see the US take the Israeli side. However, that’s up from 17 percent in 2004…

And then there is this poll from the AJC (American Jewish Committee):

In the current situation, do you favor or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?

In the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians, should Israel be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction?

Yes 35
No 61
Not Sure 4

As part of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians, should Israel be willing to dismantle all, some, or none of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank?

All 8
Some 56
None 34
Not sure 2

Should the Palestinians be required or not be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement?

Required 94
Not required 3
Not sure 1

Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?
Support 53
Oppose 42
Not sure 4

Apparently the AJC survey was not just a survey of AJC members, but despite AJC’s claims that the survey is representative of the adult Jewish American population, I am not sure exactly how they determine that. So, perhaps it is accurate, perhaps it is not. There are a lot more questions/results at the website, I just highlighted a few.

One thing the AJC poll does seem to show is that there is clear resistance to dividing Jerusalem and people seem conflicted about settlements. There also is only a narrow majority that favors a two state solution- that surprised me. Does that have an impact on US efforts to negotiate peace in the Middle East, assuming this poll is at all representative of American Jewish public opinion? I think it does and that could be a problem. However, with respect to the questions about settlements, not even the Palestinians expect to get back all of the land taken by settlers beyond the Green Line, etc. I think a more interesting question would have been “do you support the Obama administration’s call to halt settlement construction in East Jerusalem for the duration of peace talks?” That would seem like a relevant question to ask. All of that said, polls are statistics and statistics can be used and abused so it’s best not to put too much faith in them. Also, If the Palestinians and Israelis were actually on the brink of a ground-breaking agreement, public opinion might change and become more flexible.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    September 18, 2010 12:05 pm

    Settlements would have stopped ages ago if it weren’t for lobbying by AIPAC but whenever the US leans on Israel, even if only behind the scenes, the usual suspects go crazy. While many Americans are probably sick to death of our foreign policy being shaped by Israel’s narrow interests, they are afraid of speaking out because the lobby plays the “anti-Israel” and “antisemite” card.

    Ask any progressive Israeli why Israel gets more and more extreme in its views and its demands- they’ll tell you straight out. I know because I’m married to one (a progressive Israeli). Unquestioning US support for everything Israel does has been dangerous for the peace process through the years and more importantly, dangerous for Israeli democracy.

    Did you see the loyalty oath for Israeli citizenship that is being proposed and which will likely pass in the Knesset? Where’s the US outrage? It’s a racist, totally transparent tactic to strip people Israel doesn’t like of citizenship (and to deny it to others). Oh, but where is the great ADL, AIPAC, AJC? Where are my fellow liberal Jews? Suddenly very quiet. Oh, but Jewish members of Congress were oh so outraged over an Israeli bill that they thought would impact them/us because it might have affected the diaspora and how being “Jewish” would be defined. Guess what? American Jewish pressure resulted in Bibi killing the bill- the moral of this story is when Jews in the US pressure Israel Israel immediately stops what it’s doing. So the fact that we don’t apply any pressure regarding the blockade, the Occupation, settlements and racist laws means only one thing- we are on board with it and it’s why those things continue.

    • September 18, 2010 12:43 pm

      Steve- I’m not sure I would place so much blame at the feet of the Jewish community in general. I think groups like AIPAC should share some blame but I don’t think they are representative of the Jewish community as a whole. I think one of the things AIPAC is very good at is giving everyone the impression that THEIR views on Israel-US relations and Mideast peace is/are the prevailing one and I think the reality is much more complex. AIPAC has a very aggressive media campaign and as we know it’s very tight with Congress (and of course, with the Israeli government)- that means it’s much easier for them to get their particular views out there on the airwaves (and the op-ed pages) than say, you or J-Street would have getting your views out there. And yes, the media is quite sympathetic to AIPAC’s views, which makes it even easier for them.

      All of that said, there does seem to be quite a difference between the first and second poll with respect to Iran. But again, there has been a pretty big fear campaign waged by certain interest groups and yes, in some ways, the US government. When it comes to Iran, emotional arguments seem to rule the day. Me personally, I think Iran is a HUGE distraction and the threat has been WAY overblown. Kind of like the threat from Iraq/Saddam was. If Iran wasn’t in the picture, it would be Syria. Or Lebanon. You get my drift.

  2. Tovah permalink
    September 18, 2010 12:13 pm

    The AJC is pretty status quo and conservative. Those poll results look like a bunch of people just like my parents responded ;).

    The first set of results shows that the beltway is pretty out of touch with actual american beliefs. The media and the foreign policy crowd would have us believe most Americans are itching for war with Iran when in reality, its just THEM that are itching for a military confrontation. Luckily, most Americans seem reasonable. What I find disturbing is in the second poll the number of Jewish Americans who support military action against Iran compared to Americans in general. That’s a problem in my view. It sort of feeds into the idea that we are more concerned about Israel than US interests and that’s not good. It feeds into anti-semitism- those who say we can’t be objective when it comes to foreign policy regarding Israel or anything having to do with it.

  3. Thain permalink
    September 18, 2010 1:07 pm

    Tony Blair, the neocons’ poodle, seemed to endorse preventative war with Iran. This guy has become a moralistic pinhead. Really, I liked him much, much better in his first terms in office. Then he found religion and became Bush’s you know what. Another fake liberal who went on to oversee needless war.

    There is a certain amount of “our crimes should be ignored because yours are worse” arrogance to Blair. The guy mindlessly support the Iraq War and just like Bush, lied and yet he pulls his religion nonsense and goes on about how he really believes we did the right thing. Of course no one dares ask him if the estimated hundreds of thousands of dead civilians, millions of orphans and displaced Iraqis would agree with his self-righteous morality. He hasn’t learned ONE fucking thing! We kill hundreds of thousands and we accuse OTHERS of being too violent and extremist?

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