J Street has just released its latest poll (full results, analysis) about American Jewish attitudes toward the Israeli-Arab conflict. As usual, it contains some heartening results and some worrisome ones. Perhaps the most important trend noted is that American Jews support a muscular U.S. policy that actively encourages the warring parties to resolve their differences through negotiation. Not only that, Jews are willing to see Pres. Obama crack heads, if necessary, to achieve those ends. 86% are in favor of an active U.S. role if that means publicly stating disagreements with the parties. 66% favor an active role if it means publicly disagreeing with ISRAEL. 64% support an active role if it means exerting pressure on Israel. 77% support naming the party responsible for blocking an agreement. Almost half would support reducing Israeli military aid if it is such a party. Those are surprisingly robust numbers considering the questions allowed for quite strong criticism and pressure on Israel if it was the recalcitrant party.
60% oppose expanding Israeli settlements. 76% support a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement along the lines of the Geneva Accords (though I do wonder whether the outcomes might have been slightly different if the question specifically referred to an Israeli return to 1967 borders).
57% believe that in George Mitchell’s role as Israel-Palestine envoy he should be an honest broker, rather than an Israel partisan.
69% would support Israeli and American engagement with a Palestinian unity government even if it included Hamas. This is an especially important finding both because Palestinians are earnestly negotiating towards this goal in Egypt as I write. And because the recent budget bill passed by Congress contains some truly bizarre, draconian provisions that would outlaw ANY U.S. involvement with a Palestinian government that did include Hamas. Steven Zunes also reports in Foreign Policy that there is even a declaration that the U.S. may not engage with the PA in Jerusalem EVEN IF the Israeli government has reached an accommodation with the Palestinians and divided/shared the city. What is important here is to note how completely off the reservation Congressional Democrats have gone in accommodating the Aipac holy warriors.
69% of Jews reject Avigdor Lieberman’s call for loyalty oaths for Israeli Arabs and his more bellicose anti-Arab positions like killing MKs who support Hamas. But surprisingly only 29% had an unfavorable view of him while 27% had a favorable view.
American Jews reject the contention of many pro-Israel hardliners that public disagreement with Israeli policy is not acceptable for Jews. 58% disagree.
50% consider themselves liberal or progressive, while 28% consider themselves moderate. The survey also indicates just how “grey” the Jewish community is: 47% of respondents are over 55 years. 32% are between 18-39.
When we consider the issue of whether the Israel lobby or organized Jewish community represent the views of the majority of American Jews, it’s important to remember that 58% do not belong to a synagogue and 53% do not belong to a communal organization. This means that over half of Jews are unaffiliated.
There are of course responses which either surprised me in a negative way or that I found distressing. American Jews seem, to a certain extent, to have bought into the Israel lobby’s scare campaign regarding Iran. 39% support negotiations and incentives aiming to persuade Iran to abandon its possible nuclear weapons program. 37% support sanctions to force Iran to comply. 41% believe the U.S. should not attack Iran if it “on the verge” of attaining nuclear capability. 40% believe it should.
American Jews seem to be moving in a different direction than Barack Obama, who made a magnificent statement attempting to engage Iran in building a more constructive bilateral relationship. These numbers are worrisome as well since there are strong elements within Israeli intelligence, the military command, and rightist political circles (including the incoming prime minister Bibi Netanyahu and foreign minister AVigdor Lieberman) who are known to support a military attack with or without U.S. support.
75% of Jews supported Israel and its invasion of Gaza. An earlier Pew study found that 55% of Democrats opposed the Gaza war. Which means there is a real split between Jews and Americans when it comes to such matters. 85-90% of Israeli Jews who supported the war. The difference in levels of Israeli and Diaspora war support is significant, though I am disappointed there wasn’t more opposition here and in Israel. It should be added that there is a natural reservoir of support for Israel during wartime due to Jewish belief that war poses an existential threat to Israel. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any polling of Jewish support for the 2006 Lebanon war. I’d be interested in comparing the two.
41% of Jews believe the war did nothing to increase Israel’s security and 18% believe it harmed it. 41% believe it made Israel more secure. Apparently, they haven’t been reading the newspapers and news from southern Israel.
Despite my disappointment at the numbers supporting the Gaza war, 69% believe Israel’s response to Hamas rockets was “disproportionate.” 56% believe Israeli military actions that involve killing civilians “create more terrorism.” 65% believe that Israel’s siege against Gaza and the notion of collective punishment is wrong.
47% believe that traditional Jewish organizations are doing a “good job of representing my views on Israel.” A healthy 30% disagreed though. I was slightly disappointed that only 35% of respondents knew of J Street (64% knew of Aipac) and that 17% viewed the former favorably (37% the latter) and 12% viewed it unfavorably. Though if you consider that J Street is barely a year old and Aipac is 50 years old and that J Street has 1/10th Aipac’s annual budget if that, I suppose I shouldn’t be too disappointed. And it is heartening that Aipac’s favorability rating is as low as it is. This indicates a healthy level of skepticism about the organization and its methods.