Polls: U.S. public supports Israel


WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (JTA) — Israel gets strong backing from Americans in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to two recently released polls.

Some 92 percent of those surveyed in one of these polls endorse “full cooperation” between the United States and Israel in combating terrorism.

The poll of 1,011 Americans was conducted Sept. 14-18 by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Hudson Institute.

“You don’t see these kinds of numbers — that’s as close to unanimous as you’ ll ever get in a national poll. It means that the American public is almost completely behind Israel and American support for Israel and American cooperation with Israel,” said Gary Tobin, the president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

In a second poll, 55 percent of Americans said they back Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians; 7 percent backed the Palestinians.

That CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,032 Americans was taken Sept. 14-15.

Both polls have a 3 percent margin of error.

“These polls demonstrate the solidarity between Americans and Israelis,” said Tim Wuliger, the president of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

“In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, Americans understand that we should support another country which has been relentlessly attacked by terrorists and which shares our values of democracy, sanctity of human life and tolerance for differences in personal beliefs.”

Gallup has been tracking this issue for years and usually about four in 10 Americans express greater sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians. Support for the Palestinians has generally been about twice what it is now.

The sharp rise in sympathy for the Jewish state is a direct result of Americans’ experiencing firsthand the threat of terrorism that has plagued Israel, said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Americans identify with Israel’s plight,” he said.

Some observers had worried that Americans might blame the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on U.S. support for Israel.

But Makovsky said a backlash against Israel won’t happen because Americans realize that what’s driving Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, is not anti-Israel feelings but rather the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf and Western culture.

Among the other findings of Tobin’s poll:

• Asked the likely cause of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States, 64.3 percent of Americans blamed the growing number of Arab terrorist groups and the countries that harbor them, while 20.1 percent blamed American support for Israel. Young people and those with incomes over $75,000 were more likely to blame American support for Israel.

• 73.7 percent of Americans said the United States should develop closer relations, or not change current relations, with Israel as a result of the attack, while 11.7 percent said the United States should begin to distance itself from Israel. Support for closer ties to Israel were strongest in the South and among people living in rural areas.

• 74.6 percent of Americans said Israel should “do whatever is necessary” to find and destroy terrorists who threaten serious harm to its citizens, with an additional 7.9 percent agreeing, but adding qualifying comments. Support for this view was particularly strong among Republicans, respondents 18-44, and those in the North Central and South regions.

Meanwhile, a Time/CNN poll taken Sept. 13 reported that only 10 percent of respondents said they feel more favorably about Israel as a result of the attacks and 21 percent feel less favorably.

Some 42 percent of respondents in this poll said they feel less favorably toward Palestinians after the Sept.11 events.

According to Tobin, the favorability question is less relevant.

“Whether Americans have favorable or unfavorable views doesn’t matter,” said Tobin. “They want Israel to be a partner in fighting terrorism.”

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