Support for Israel Still Strong in U.s., Ajcongress Survey Finds

Despite the continued violence and clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian rioters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, American support for Israel is strong and has actually grown in the past four months, according to the results of a new poll released here Thursday by the American Jewish Congress.

Moreover, the survey indicates that Americans, by decisive margins, are more sympathetic to Israel than either the Palestinians or the Arab states.

The poll, taken between April 8 and 24, was a national telephone survey among 1,017 voters. It was conducted by the Boston public opinion firm Marttila and Kiley on behalf of the AJCongress.

The survey’s finding were announced at a news conference at the AJCongress headquarters here.

According to the poll, 61 percent of the American public supports Israel over the Arab nations, a dramatic increase from 47 percent only four months earlier in January 1988.

Forty-four percent of the American public was found by the poll to feel that Israel “is a close ally” of the United States, while 32 percent believe that Israel is a “friend but not a close ally” of the United States.

Only 10 percent termed Israel “not a friend and not an enemy” of the United States.

In comparison, in January 1988, only 27 percent of the American public considered Israel a close ally.

A SPLIT ON THE UNREST

But despite its basic support of the State of Israel, the poll found that the American public is almost evenly split on the issue of Israel’s behavior towards rioting Palestinians in the territories.

Although 46 percent believe that “Israel has only used enough force to prevent further rioting in the West Bank,” 41 percent of the American people feel “Israel has been too harsh in dealing with the Palestinians riots.”

On the question of a peace settlement, 49 percent of the American public believes Israeli leaders are seeking a peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, while 37 percent contends that Israeli leaders are blocking efforts to achieve peace.

In contrast, 61 percent think Egypt’s leaders are seeking peace, while only 17 percent maintain they are blocking efforts.

On the issue of American military and economic aid to Israel, the poll found that almost 62 percent think U.S. military and arms sales to Israel should be kept at their current level, 13 percent want them increased and 12 percent want them decreased. Eight percent want them stopped altogether.

Forty three percent said that $3 billion dollars in yearly American aid to Israel was “about the right amount,” whereas 45 percent claimed it was too much.

Should Israel be invaded by Arab forces, 58 percent of those polled said they would support the U.S. sending troops to defend Israel.

FINDINGS ON PEACE PROCESS

Other highlights of the poll’s findings:

Forty-three percent said they favor an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank; 42 percent oppose it.

Sixty-two percent think the United States should not recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization; 32 percent favor recognition. Seventy-five percent said the PLO must renounce terrorism.

Sixty-one percent rejected the notion that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to the U.S; 27 percent accepted it.

Forty-seven percent said Israel should return land for peace; 45 percent objected.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is the most highly regarded Israeli leader by the American public. He is known by 59 percent of the public, with one third having a favorable impression of him; one fourth have an unfavorable impression.

King Hussein of Jordan is the most popular Mideast leader in America. Six in ten voters can identify him, and his favorable-unfavorable rating is 43 to 17 percent.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is the best-known Israeli leader (recognized by 65 percent of the public), but also the least popular. Those with unfavorable impressions outnumber those with favorable impressions by a 35 to 29 percent margin.

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