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U.S. Jews favor pressure on Israel, Arabs

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A majority of American Jews favor U,S. pressure on Israel and Arabs to achieve a peace agreement, a poll showed.

The poll, conducted for J Street, a pro-Israel group that favors an enhanced U.S. role in the peace process, showed Jewish respondents favoring such a role, 82 percent to 18 percent.

Pollsters split respondents into sub-groups to answer a question about pressure on Israel phrased in different ways; some respondents answered a question about the United States "publicly stating disagreements" and some were posed a question about "exerting pressure." Some questions asked only about Israel, others asked whether the pressure should be applied to Israel and the Arabs.

In cases where pressure would be applied to both sides, substantial majorities were in favor: 73 percent favored "stating disagreements" with both sides and 71 percent approved "exerting pressure" on both sides. Respondents were evenly split when asked only about pressure on Israel.

The poll comes in the wake of two weeks of tension after Israel announced a major building start in a fervently Orthodox eastern Jerusalem neighborhood during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden aimed at underscoring the close relationship with Israel and restarting peace talks.

The poll showed Jewish support for President Obama continues to outpace the general population, at 62 percent — 15 points ahead of what general polls show.

Asked to list two issues that will influence their vote in November congressional elections, 55 percent listed the economy and 41 percent listed health care. Israel was seventh on the list, with ten percent, and Iran was last out of 14 with two percent.

The poll was conducted March 17-19 through email; 803 self-identified Jews responded from a Web-based panel of about 900,000 Americans. The pollster, Gerstein-Agne Strategic Communications, said the margin of error was 3.5 percentage points for the whole sample and 4.9 percentage points for split samples. The firm’s principal, Jim Gerstein, is a founding member of J Street’s board of directors.

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