American Jews generally support the Middle East peace process, but they distrust Israel’s negotiating partners and oppose many of the specific details of the process, according to a recent survey of American Jewish public opinion.
“There’s generic support for peace” among American Jews, said Edward Miller, a senior analyst for Luntz Research Companies, which conducted the survey.
“But when you get to the specific involved, like [returning] the Golden Heights, there’s pretty adamant opposition to the peace process,” he said.
Luntz conducted the poll, “American Jewish Public Opinion,” May 2-5 and questioned 650 Jewish adults on a variety of Political topics, including the Middle East peace process.
Jonathan Jacoby, executive vice president of the Israel Policy Forum, said even though he was “a little” disappointed by the lack of support for specific aspects of the peace process, the general support is “a good sign.”
“The fact that support for the peace process is still high is the most important sign because it means American Jews, generally speaking, believe this is the way to go and want this process to work,” said Jacoby, whose group advocates on behalf of the Labor government’s peace policies.
Miller had a slightly different interpretation.
American Jews want peace, he said, but they want an “equitable peace” with “someone they can trust.”
According to the poll, Miller said, American Jews believe that Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization cannot be trusted.
Miller also said the results send a message to the Israeli government and the Clinton administration to slow down.
He said the results show an “unpopular” reaction to the Labor Party in Israel.
Luntz, one of the Republican Party’s key pollsters, has informally advised Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud Party who is poised to challenge Yitzhak Rabin for the premiership in next year’s Israeli elections.
Jacoby attacked Miller’s interpretation of attitudes toward the Labor Party.
“There weren’t any questions on the Labor Party, so I don’t know how he got that conclusion,” he said.
“It’s an interesting spin, but there’s no data back up,” he added.
Jacoby also said he though that the poll indicated that people want the peace process to move ahead.
“It’s anything, people are saying that the process needs to move forward more quickly, not that the peace process should be slowed down,” he said.
According to the survey, 75 percent approved of Israel’s strategies in negotiating with its Arab neighbors, but only 42 percent said they thought that the September 1993 Israeli-PLO peace accord was successful.
Of those polled, 20 percent said the accord was either very unsuccessful or a complete failure and 36 percent said it was somewhat unsuccessful.
Explaining why he thinks that support has decreased since the signing, Miller said, “You’ve had a year of bombings, of broken promises on [PLO leader Yasser] Arafat’s part and you haven’t taken any steps further to make people feel more supportive of the process.
“People don’t feel the peace accord has gone anywhere,” he said.
Jacoby agreed that the poll’s results are a “sign of frustration with the pace of negotiations.”
But he said activists should “explain the process better, so people understand its pace and its character.”
On the other side of the negotiating table, American Jews believe that an agreement with Syria is important, but are dubious about Syrian President Hafez Assad’s commitment to peace, the poll found.
Fully 82 percent said such an agreement is vital, though 62 percent said they did not trust Assad.
Respondents expressed a similar level of distrust for Arafat.
In general, the poll found that American Jews trust the Syrian government the least when compared with the PLO, Egypt and Jordan.
The PLO came in second, with 30 percent of the respondents saying they mistrusted it, compared with 44 percent who said they did not trust Syria.
Questions about the Golan Heights and the security zone in southern Lebanon elicited strong responses.
Asked whether Israel should leave the Golan Heights, which most believe to be intrinsic to an Israel-Syrian peace, 64 percent of the respondents said no. A total of 51 percent said they would not support an Israel-Syrian treaty that named the Golan as a condition for peace.
As for leaving the Lebanese security zone, which Israel set up to protest its northern border in the wake of the Lebanon War in the early 1980’s, 57 percent said they were against such a move.
The American Jewish community is almost evenly split regarding stationing U.S. troops on the Golan to monitor a presumed Israel-Syria peace treaty, the poll found.
While 48 percent said they would oppose the move, 46 percent said they would support it.
As for whether Congress should hold hearings on the issue before making a decision, 53 percent backed hearings, while 40 percent said they were unnecessary.