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Poll Finds Most Federation Leaders Opposed to Shamir’s Policies

The warm applause Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir receives from Jewish audiences on his current visit to the United States should “not be misunderstood as endorsement” of his government’s policies, the head of a Jewish think tank said Wednesday.

David Gordis, head of the Los Angeles-based Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies, made his comments as he released a poll of 205 of the 339 board members of the Council of Jewish Federations and presidents of local federations.

The telephone survey, conducted between Nov. 7 and Nov. 18, found that while there is near-unanimous commitment to Israel and its security, the leaders of America’s Jewish philanthropic community overwhelmingly support territorial compromise, a freeze on settlements and other policies the Shamir government opposes.

The poll was released the day before Shamir’s scheduled address before the CJF’s general assembly in Baltimore and two days before the Israeli leader meets with President Bush at the White House.

Gordis said that the warm welcome Shamir will receive in Baltimore befits his position as prime minister. But he said such welcomes has in the past been misinterpreted by Shamir as support for his views.

The poll was designed and analyzed by Professor Seymour Martin Lipset of George Mason University in Virginia and Professor Steven Cohen of Queens College in New York.

SPLIT ON PUBLIC CRITICISM

At the news conference, Lipset noted the strong commitment to Israel among those polled. Forty-five percent of them contribute more than $25,000 annually to the United Jewish Appeal and 75 percent more than $10,000. Most have visited Israel about seven times, he noted.

But he conceded that the organizational leaders may be more dovish than the general Jewish population. The more concerned Jews are with Israel, the more knowledgeable, the more likely they are to be dovish, Lipset said.

He and Gordis stressed that Jewish leaders have expressed these views to Israeli and U.S. leaders privately, although in public they have been more hawkish.

The poll showed that Jewish leaders are almost evenly divided on whether American Jews should publicly criticize Israel, with 49 percent approving public disagreement and 47 percent opposed.

The Jewish leaders demonstrated in their responses a strong concern to Israel’s security. Those polled were virtually unanimous in believing that Israel would require a strong military even if peace treaties are signed and that Israel must retain control of Jerusalem as its capital. Eighty-eight percent believe that Israeli troops would have to remain at key points in the West Bank, and 72 percent believe that civilian settlements enhance Israel’s security in the West Bank.

Two-thirds of the respondents would agree to a settlement freeze in return for an end to the Arab boycott or to intifada violence, and 59 percent believe that the settlements in the administered territories make peace more difficult to achieve.

Asked what Israel should do if it had to choose between U.S. guarantees for $10 billion in loans to help absorb Soviet Jews and continued settlements in the West Bank, 78 percent would freeze settlement activity and 13 percent would forgo the loans.

But 85 percent of Jewish leaders polled disagree with Shamir’s declaration not to give up “one inch” of territory, 88 percent supported territorial compromise and 79 percent said that after Palestinian self-rule in the territories proved peaceful, they would support the gradual emergence of a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Asked whether Israel should return part of the Golan Heights for peace with Syria, 58 percent favored this while 40 percent were opposed.

MAJORITY FAVOR LABOR

Ninety-seven percent of the Jewish leaders believe that the Palestine Liberation Organization would destroy Israel if it could. But 64 percent say the mainstream PLO leadership realizes it cannot do so and 61 percent think Israel should negotiate with the PLO if the PLO recognizes Israel’s right to exist, ceases terror and ends the intifada.

On the U.S. role in the Middle East, 91 percent agree that continued U.S. involvement is necessary for a successful outcome, and 75 percent agree that the U.S. must press both sides to adopt more flexible positions.

An overwhelming 83 percent of the Jewish leaders are “generally more grateful” for the U.S. efforts in bringing about a Middle East peace conference, while 15 percent are “generally more upset.”

Three percent said U.S. policies in the Middle East were “very helpful” to Israel and 49 percent said they were “somewhat helpful.” But 41 percent believe the policies were “somewhat harmful” and 3 percent “very harmful.”

At the same time, 72 percent think the U.S. administration does not “adequately” appreciate Israel’s security problem while 25 percent are of the opinion it does.

Asked their positions on Israeli politics, 53 percent favored Labor and 22 percent Likud; 74 percent were generally unfavorable toward Gush Emunim and 16 percent favorable, and 54 percent were generally favorable toward Peace Now while 40 percent viewed the movement unfavorably.

‘JUST JEWISH’

Sixty-seven percent of the Jewish leaders polled were men and 33 percent women, with a median age of 55 and median income of $200,000. On political issues, 36 percent considered themselves liberal, 15 percent conservative and 48 percent middle of the road.

On religious orientation, 51 percent were Conservative, 35 percent Reform, 5 percent Orthodox, 2 percent Reconstructionist and 6 percent “just Jewish.”

The polling interviews were conducted by the ICR Survey Research Group, an independent research group. The study was made possible by a grant from Alan Wurtzel, past president of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, Va., and former president of Operation Independence, which seeks American investment and trade with Israel.

Project Nishma, a dovish Jewish organization that sponsors programs on Israel’s security needs in the context of the peace process, helped in preparing the study and securing funding for it.

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