Poll Finds U.S. Support for Israel Stable but Lower Than Two Years Ago

American public support for Israel has held steady in the past year, despite the continuation of the Palestinian uprising, according to a poll commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.

But American support for Israel remains considerably lower than it was before the uprising began on Dec. 9, 1987.

The poll contains “good news” about the stabilization of attitudes, but also shows that “the uprising has taken its toll,” said Ira Silverman, AJCommittee’s executive vice president.

He spoke Tuesday at a news conference announcing the results of the survey, which was conducted in April. The Roper Organization has conducted the poll for AJCommittee since 1984, in order to “take the temperature of the American public” on issues concerning Israel and American Jewry said Silverman.

In the latest survey, a representative sample of approximately 2,000 Americans was questioned on its attitudes toward both Israel and American Jews.

The poll found that 36 percent of Americans side with Israel in the Middle East conflict, while 13 percent sympathize more with the Arab nations. In April 1988, by comparison, 37 percent favored Israel and 11 percent favored the Arabs.

The remainder in each case said they did not sympathize with either side, sympathized equally with both sides or did not know.

Sympathy for Israel was considerably higher in June 1986, when an AJCommittee poll found that 53 percent of respondents sided more with the Jewish state.

WARINESS OF TALKS WITH PLO

The latest poll also shows that a plurality of Americans, 42 percent, still believe Israel is correct in its refusal to negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Only 32 percent said that position is wrong, a slight increase over the 27 percent of Americans who felt that way a year ago, before Yasir Arafat recognized Israel’s right to exist.

But far fewer blacks than whites approve of Israel’s refusal to talk with the PLO. In this year’s poll, 25 percent of black respondents said that refusal was right, compared to 44 percent of whites surveyed.

Black Americans are also less apt to regard Israel as a reliable ally, the poll found. In most other issues regarding Israel and American Jewry, however, there were no significant differences between the responses of blacks and whites polled.

Among the poll’s other significant findings:

Forty-four percent said they considered Israel a reliable ally. A higher percentage said that Canada, West Germany and France were reliable allies, but fewer said that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were.

Respondents were divided over Israel’s response to the uprising. Thirty percent said it has been too harsh, and 28 percent described it as “about right.” A mere 8 percent said the Israeli response was too lenient.

There appeared to be confusion over the appropriate solution to the conflict. Over half of the respondents, 56 percent, said they did not prefer any one solution.

Thirteen percent said Israel should return the administered territories to Jordan, 10 percent supported the retention of Israeli military control and local self-rule for Palestinians.

Only 9 percent said they favored the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

In questions on American Jewry, a plurality of 43 percent disagreed with the statement that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States.

Only a very small number of respondents, 8 percent, felt the Jews had “too much power.”

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