American Jews Still Strongly Support Peace Process, According to New Survey

Results of a new nationwide survey of American Jews reveal that they are as supportive of the Middle East peace process as they were last fall, during the euphoric period that followed the signing of the declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The poll of 500 randomly selected American Jews, conducted May 10-12, showed that 88 percent of respondents supported the peace process and only 5 percent opposed it.

In addition, there was strong support among respondents for the Palestinian self-rule agreement that went into effect this month, with 78 percent supporting it and 9 percent in opposition.

The poll was commissioned by the Israel Policy Forum, an American Jewish group linked to the Israeli Labor Party, and was conducted by two leading Democratic pollsters, Stanley Greenberg — who is President Clinton’s pollster — and Mark Mellman.

Greenberg, Mellman, and Israel Policy Forum President Robert Lifton — former head of the American Jewish Congress — released the poll at a news conference here Thursday.

Organizers said it was the first poll of its kind to be conducted since last fall, when surveys indicated overwhelming levels of support for the peace process in the wake of the historic White House handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Still, the poll revealed mixed emotions among respondents regarding the peace process, with 85 percent considering themselves “cautious,” 84 percent saying they are “hopeful,” and three-fourths saying they are both cautious and hopeful.

‘HOPE OUTWEIGHS FEAR’

“What is clear is that hope outweighs fear,” Mellman said, basing his comment on a regression analysis the pollsters conducted with the data.

In recent months, there have been indications of a drop-off in support among the Israeli public for the peace process, as people have reacted to delays in implementing the accord and to a series of terrorist attacks throughout the country.

But the results of this survey suggest that American Jews are far more supportive of the process than their Israeli counterparts.

“Support for the agreement is a mainstream Jewish position,” Greenberg said, adding that such support is “most marked for those most active in the Jewish community.”

Results indicated that those most supportive of the Gaza-Jericho agreement are well-educated, wealthy, high contributors to Jewish groups, and those who have visited Israel.

Any discrepancy between American and Israeli public opinion on the peace process could be a result of American Jews being “not influenced by the opponents (of the peace process) but by Rabin,” Lifton said.

The survey results show very high favorable ratings for the Israeli prime minister, with 84 percent of respondents rating him positively and only 7 percent negatively.

Most respondents also agreed with various decisions made by Rabin in recent months.

Eighty-three percent backed Rabin’s decision to continue negotiations despite terrorist bombings in Israel by the Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas; 62 percent supported Rabin’s decision to outlaw followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane after the Hebron massacre; and 65 percent agreed with Rabin’s willingness to trade territory on the Golan Heights to achieve peace with Syria.

Rabin received the highest positive ratings of the leaders included in the survey.

Clinton also ranked high, with a 75 percent-21 percent favorable-unfavorable rating. Other leaders included were Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 68-14; Secretary of State Warren Christopher, 61-24; Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, 37-29; and Arafat, 31-60.

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