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Poll: Jews support strong U.S. peace role

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — American Jews favor an active U.S. role in the Middle East peace process even if it means exerting pressure on Israel, according to a poll.

The survey by J Street, which backs assertive U.S. engagement in the peace process and markets itself as an alternative to the more hard-line views that it claims dominate many other pro-Israel organizations, also found that Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman is not popular among American Jews and that President Obama and his policies on the Middle East garner more than 70 percent approval in the American Jewish community.

The survey of 800 self-identified American Jews by Gerstein Agne Strategic Communications was conducted Feb. 28 to March 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

One issue on which the community was evenly split was how to deal with Iran. Forty-one percent did not favor a military attack on Iran "if they are on the verge of developing nuclear weapons," while 40 percent supported such a strike. And 39 percent favored "direct negotiations" with the Iranians while 37 percent supported international sanctions.

According to the poll, 88 percent of respondents favored the United States playing "an active role" in helping the parties resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, with 64 percent of those favoring an "active role" saying they would continue to back it even if it meant "exerting pressure on Israel." Overall, 57 percent of those surveyed would support such pressure.

In addition, 69 percent said that if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority form a unified government, it would support the United States working with such a government to achieve a peace agreement with Israel.

The poll also found high name recognition for Lieberman, with 62 percent of American Jews saying they know who he is. After being told that he has "called for the execution of Arab members of Israel’s parliament who met with Hamas and whose main campaign message called for Arab citizens of Israel to sign a loyalty oath to the Jewish state in order to prevent their citizenship from being revoked," 32 percent said that their "personal connection" to Israel would be weakened because Lieberman’s positions "go against my core values."

During the election campaign, Lieberman called on all Israelis to sign the loyalty oath, but it was not part of the coalition agreement he signed with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of respondents backed Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza, although just 41 percent said it made Israel more secure. And 60 percent did not support the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

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