ADL finds Americans support Israel, but oppose US involvement in peace talks

Survey found Iran's "charm offensive" failed to convince most Americans, but only 50% support military action against Tehran.

November 6, 2013 00:46
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama at Ben Gurion Airport, March 20, 2013.

Netanyahu and Obama at airport 390. (photo credit: White House)


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The majority of Americans consider Israel a trusted ally but believe the US should play only a “minimal” role in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, according to a public opinion survey released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Tuesday.

The announcement that 62 percent of Americans believe “it is up to the Palestinians and the Israelis to solve their own problems” in pursuit of lasting peace came only hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Israel in an attempt to jump start stalled peace negotiations.

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The data provide a stark reminder that while Americans support Israel and distrust Iran, they are ambivalent and often reluctant about intervention in the Middle East.

“It seems like the American public wants less and less to do with the Middle East,” said Nimrod Goren, chair of Mitvim–The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, which was not involved in conducting the survey.

Goren said “without strong American involvement the chances to make progress are not very high.”

Abraham Foxman, the ADL national director, said in a statement that the data showed two general trends.

“On the one hand,” he said, “Israel is in as good a position with the American public as it ever has been.”

More than three-quarters of respondents believed that Israel was a “strong, loyal US ally,” the highest level of support in at least eight years.

“On the other hand,” Foxman continued, “there are signs here as elsewhere that the American people want less US involvement in the Middle East region, a position which has little to do with negative feelings toward Israel but that can have negative consequences for the Jewish state.”

Goren said the data reflected a need for Israel to adapt its long-term expectations for US support.

The survey was conducted in mid-October, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive” was in full swing.

The data indicate that, at least in the short-term, the Iranian regime’s efforts did not appear to convince most Americans. Eight out of ten respondents said they did not trust the regime, and three-quarters believed it was unlikely that the Iranians would “abide by their public commitment to not develop nuclear weapons.”

Ken Jacobson, the ADL’s deputy national director, wrote in an email that this finding “could give space to the administration to be very tough in negotiations.”

Still, Americans are split regarding military action – 50% for, 41% against – and a plurality believes that if Israel attacks Iran the US should “stay neutral.”

They are also split almost evenly about whether to keep or eliminate sanctions.

Seventy percent of the respondents thought it unlikely that Syria would eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile.

Yet Americans strongly oppose trying to remove President Bashar Assad from power, and a majority opposes US intervention if Syria does not destroy its chemical weapons.

The ADL surveyed 1,200 Americans. The poll had a margin of error of 2.8%.

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