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War Has Boosted Israel’s Standing in U.S. Public Opinion, Poll Finds

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Israel’s already favorable rating in American public opinion has risen significantly since the Persian Gulf war began, according to a national survey of 600 registered voters conducted this month for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

The 88 percent approval of Israel in February, up from 70 percent in December, probably stems from the Israeli government’s restraint in the face of Scud missile attacks from Iraq, according to Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, who released the poll results Monday.

By a 79-19 percent margin, Americans said Israel should continue to exercise restraint. But 59 percent of those supporting restraint thought Israel should retaliate for a chemical weapon attack. Although 37 percent would support retaliation if the attacks persist for another month, 51 percent were opposed.

Despite the support for restraint however, a majority of 53 percent believed the United States has no right to demand that Israel refrain from retaliation.

By a 46-37 percent margin, Americans thought the United States “should stand by Israel” if it retaliates against Iraq, even at the risk of Arab defections from the U.S.-led coalition.

But 51 percent believed the coalition would not break up if Israel became militarily involved in the war, compared with 37 percent who thought it would.

By a margin of 89-10 percent, the respondents were convinced the United States was “doing everything” it could to protect Israel from Iraqi missile attacks.

The telephone poll was conducted Feb. 4 and 5 by Marttila and Kiley Inc., a Boston-based public opinion research firm. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.

By 60-17 percent, Americans sympathized more with Israel than with the Arab nations. In the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the sympathies of 47 percent were with the Israelis, as opposed to 28 percent for the Palestinians.

BACKING FOR PALESTINIAN HOMELAND

By a 58-20 percent margin, the respondents favored giving the Palestinians a homeland in the West Bank. But that was down from 62 percent before the Gulf war began.

Asked if they would support a Palestinian homeland if it might pose a risk to Israeli security, the response was 44-41 percent in favor.

By a 47-42 percent margin, Americans thought Israel should never negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The poll found that 64 percent of Americans believe the United States and its allies should continue fighting until Saddam Hussein is removed from power and the Iraqi military machine is broken.

That contrasted with 23 percent who thought the war should end if Iraq pulled its forces out of Kuwait.

According to the poll, 46 percent rated Israel a “close ally” of the United States, while 42 percent saw it as “friendly but not an ally.”

Favorable opinions of the present Israeli government were held by 58 percent of the respondents compared with 23 percent “unfavorable” and 10 percent who had “mixed” feelings.

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