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U.S. Jews Still Support Peace Process, but Not As Much As Last Year, Poll Says

American Jews remain strongly supportive of Israeli policies on the peace process, according to a new poll sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

But the survey revealed less enthusiasm among American Jews than a similar poll found a year ago, immediately after the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

According to the survey of 1,000 American Jews conducted in mid-August, 77 percent supported the Israeli government’s handling of the peace negotiations with the Arabs, and 10 percent oppose. This compares to 84 percent in support of the Israeli government a year ago.

Similarly, 61 percent of those surveyed believed that the plan for Palestinian autonomy increases the chance for peace with the Arabs, down from 73 percent a year ago.

“People responded in a less euphoric, more realistic manner,” said David Harris, AJCommittee’s executive director.

He noted that the survey indicated that “the Arabs, and particularly the PLO, have not persuaded a number of American Jews that they can be trusted and relied upon in this process.”

Only 18 Percent of those surveyed believed the PLO could be relied upon “to honor its agreements and refrain from terrorist activity against Israel.” Sixty-five percent did not trust the PLO.

A year ago, 34 percent felt the PLO could be relied upon.

ONE GROUP OPPOSES PEACE PROCESS

The poll found one group resolutely opposed to the peace accord: the Orthodox.

“They are the only group with an absolute majority opposed to the peace process,” said David Singer, AJCommittee’s director of research.

This reflects a shift from last year, when they were already “the most skeptical group,” said Singer, but had a majority that approved of the peace talks.

Only 35 percent of the Orthodox respondents supported the way the Israeli government has handled the peace negotiations, with 54 percent opposed. A year ago, 52 percent of the Orthodox supported it, and only 32 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, the Israel Policy Forum — organized last year to rally support behind the policies of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party — this week released two other surveys, one of the American public as a whole and one of the Israeli public.

In its survey of 1,000 Americans, the group found that Americans held a favorable view of the Israeli government’s peace efforts by a solid 57 percent majority, with 22 percent holding an unfavorable view and the remainder unsure.

Similarly, 44 percent favored the American government’s efforts to support the peace process, against only 15 percent opposing.

The survey found that college-educated Americans who follow international affairs more closely support both the Israeli and American positions more strongly, with two-thirds favoring them.

Finally, in its survey of Israelis, the Israel Policy Forum has found support for the principle that underlay its creation: that the views of American Jews matter for both Israeli and American policy.

The formation of the forum reflected a determined effort by dovish American Jews to push their policies at a time when the Rabin government, in its initial months, seemed to denigrate the importance of the American Jewish community and to pay little attention to shaping its opinion.

Asked to what extent the opinions and the actions of American Jews influence U.S. policy in the Middle East, 55 percent said a great deal or a lot. Seventy-six percent said the opinions and actions of American Jews mean a great deal or are very important to Israel and its future.

The Israel Policy Forum earlier this year conducted a survey of American Jews, which had similar findings to those of the more recent AJCommittee poll.

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