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Is U.S. Too Supportive of Israel? Yes, Many Americans Say in Poll

June 14, 2002
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A growing number of Americans say the United States is too supportive of Israel, according to a new poll.

For the first time since last October, a plurality of Americans — 43 percent — say the United States is too supportive of Israel, while 40 percent say the country gives Israel the right amount of support.

However, 10 percent still feel the United States is not supportive enough, a Gallup poll shows.

Gallup characterizes the figures as “a significant decline in a pro-Israeli point of view” over the last eight months.

In the month after the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans said the United States was giving Israel the right amount of support — rather than too much — by a 2-1 margin, or 58 percent to 29 percent. In April, the figures dropped to 49 percent and 35 percent.

The numbers reflect confusion in the American public, according to Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Americans naturally are allied with and supportive of Israel, but they don’t understand the whole nature of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Isaacson said.

“It’s not surprising that people give knee-jerk responses based on inadequate information,” he said.

The results are from telephone interviews with 800 adults conducted June 7-8. The margin of error for the poll is 3 percent.

One poll does not tell the entire story, and it’s more instructive to examine how Americans have responded over a period of time, said Rebecca Needler, spokeswoman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“There are many examples across the country that show American support for Israel,” Needler said, pointing to rallies and demonstrations in recent months expressing solidarity with Israel.

The difference between political parties is more explicit. Forty-seven percent of Republicans say the United States supports Israel the right amount, and 36 percent believe the United States is too supportive. Among Democrats, a majority — 51 percent — say U.S. support is too high, and 32 percent say it is just right.

Some 12 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats say the United States is not supportive enough of Israel, according to the poll.

Republicans clearly identify with and support Israel, said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“The traditional alliance between support for Israel and the Democratic Party is showing signs of age and wear and tear,” he said.

David Harris, deputy executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, dismissed any decrease in support for Israel within the Democratic Party, noting that Terry McAuliffe, the head of the Democratic Party, visited Israel in February.

He also played down the significance in the difference between the Republican and Democratic numbers in the poll.

“None of those numbers — for Republicans or Democrats — are very encouraging,” he said.

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