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Poll on Israel

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A clear majority of Americans continue to view Israel as the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East although many have indicated disenchantment with the manner in which the government of Premier Menachem Begin has handled the fate of former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon following the publication of the findings of the commission of inquiry into the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, according to the latest Harris poll published here.

The poll was conducted by telephone between February II and 16 and surveyed 1,248 adults nationwide. According to the poll, 80 percent of those surveyed agreed with the claim that “unless Israel punished those who allowed the massacre to take place, then Israel will lose much of its claim to being a moral, democratic country.”

Seventy two percent agreed that “by keeping Sharon in his Cabinet, Begin has created a real doubt that his government is really admitting it was wrong” to have allowed Lebanese Christian Phalangists into the refugee camps, the poll said. Furthermore, 67 percent maintained that “since Begin has not really gotten rid of Sharon, Begin should dissolve his government and call an early election to let the people of Israel decide whether Begin has done the right thing about the Lebanese massacre,” the poll reported.

But according to the poll, many Americans, 62 percent of those surveyed, still view Israel as basically a friendly state. The poll noted that in November 1982, 72 percent, and in 1981, 81 percent, viewed Israel as a friendly state. Also, many Americans, the survey noted, expressed some understanding of why Begin pursued the course of action that allowed Sharon to remain a member of the Cabinet although being relieved of his defense portfolio.

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