More on that AJC poll


I have a story up on the new American Jewish Commitee poll. The full results are here at the AJC Website, but the key findings:

Fifty-six percent of American Jews would support the “United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons,” according to the American Jewish Committee’s 2009 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion. That’s an increase of 14 percentage points from the AJC survey taken in the fall of 2008. In addition, 66 percent of those surveyed said they would back an Israeli strike on Iran.

The survey of 800 self-identifying Jewish respondents, interviewed between Aug. 30 and Sept. 17, comes as a wide swath of Jewish organizations are rallying support in the Jewish community and elsewhere for increased economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran — in particular tough sanctions targeting Iran’s importation and production of refined petroleum. With a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, the poll would appear to undercut the claims of some who charge that Jewish organizations are out of step with the Jewish public in pushing for pressure on Iran…..

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed favor the establishment of a Palestinian state, with 41 percent opposed.

Sixty percent favor the dismantlement of some or all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, compared to 37 percent who say none. On the other hand, 58 percent say Israel should not be “willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,” with just 37 percent in favor. And 51 percent of respondents disagree with the Obama administration’s call for a halt to new settlement construction, while 41 percent agree.

American Jews are extremely skeptical of Arab intentions in the Middle East. Asked whether they agreed or disagreed that "the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel,” 75 percent said yes and just 19 percent said no. But that is down from 82 percent who agreed two years ago, the last time the AJC asked the question.

Jim Besser at The Jewish Week likes the simplicity of the questions in the survey, but says they also leave him wanting to know more:

The most fascinating number and the one most reporters glommed on to is in question 14: “Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?”

I like the sparseness of the question; none of this “would you support military action against the radical leaders in Iran who have repeatedly threatened Israel with annihilation” stuff.

56 percent said they’d support a military strike, 36 said they wouldn’t, and the numbers were a complete reversal from 2007.

Why the huge change? Does it mean plummeting confidence in sanctions? Does it reflect the work Jewish leaders have been doing to alert the community to the dangers? Does it reflect broader public opinion in America?  On that last point, the survey data is contradictory.

Meanwhile, Shmuel Rosner at the Jerusalem Post says the numbers on settlements are a surprise:

I think that the major finding – maybe the major blow to Obama’s policies – is not-even-well-hidden in the question about settlements: "Do you agree or disagree with the Obama Administration’s call for a stop to all new Israeli settlement construction?" – the survey asks. The outcome: 51% disagree, only 41% agree. Hey, but didn’t all pundits and commentators (myself included in several cases) thought and wrote that Obama’s focus on settlements was politically smart because American Jews have no desire to see settlement expansion, and because they will support his message of freeze? Yes, they, we, did (even American Jewish leaders didn’t like the idea of needing to defend settlements. .. ). And is AJC’s survey is to be trusted, we were wrong for one of two reasons:

A. Jews don’t think what we thought they do. In other words: they do not oppose settlements as much as we believed they do.

B. And I think in this case option B is the one to pick: The Obama administration was going much too far, and the Israeli government was much better at explaining why it can’t go this far. In other words: Most American Jews still don’t have much sympathy for settlements, but (like Israelis) also didn’t understand the rush to push Israel around, and didn’t quite see the logic of "total freeze" now.

And the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament notes the strong support for an undivided Jerusalem:

As has been the case in the past, a clear majority of American Jews (58%) do not believe that "Israel [should be willing] to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction" even "in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians." This bottom line is true across all the community’s denominations (Orthodox: 77%, Conservative: 65%, Reform: 60% opposed a compromise on Jerusalem).

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