US Jews satisfied with bilateral ties

Survey of American Jewish Opinion: US Jewry skeptical Iran sanctions will work.

April 11, 2010 05:23
3 minute read.
us israel flag aipac 88

us israel flag aipac 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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NEW YORK – American Jews like the way the Obama and Netanyahu governments are handling US-Israel relations, according to a new survey that also found US Jewry split on President Barack Obama’s strategy vis-a-vis Iran.

The 2010 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, found that 47 percent approve of Obama’s strategy, while 42% disapprove and 11% are unsure.

Released on Friday, ahead of Obama’s nuclear summit in Washington, the survey found that a majority of American Jews have little faith that the Iranian regime would abandon its nuclear program; 68% of those surveyed said there is “little” or “no” chance that sanctions and diplomacy will curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. A slim majority – 53% – would support American military action against Iran, while 63% would support Israeli military action.

Overall, those surveyed gave the president a 57% approval rating on a range of issues, including health care, the economy and homeland security. In 2008, candidate Obama garnered 78% of the Jewish vote.

The survey of 800 respondents reached by telephone between March 2 and March 23 followed a period of tense diplomacy between the US and Israel, including an announcement, during Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel, of new Jewish housing units in east Jerusalem.

But the gaffe did not seem to affect optimism among American Jews regarding lasting peace in Israel. Asked to describe how they feel now about prospects for peace, compared to their feelings last year, 72% said their feelings are the same as one year ago. Six percent are more optimistic, and 22% are less optimistic.

Sixty-three percent characterized US-Israel relations as “somewhat positive,” while 10% said they were “very positive.”

Fifty-five percent of respondents approved of the Obama administration’s handling of US-Israel relations, compared to 54% who approved last year. Some 57% of respondents approved of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s handling of the relationship, and 30% disapproved.

On a main point of contention between the two governments – the future of Israeli settlements – 8% of American Jews surveyed said “all” and 56% said “some” settlements should be dismantled as part of an agreement with the Palestinians. Thirty-four percent said none should be removed.

The survey clearly depicted a strong bond with Israel felt by American Jews. Thirty percent of respondents said they feel “very close,” while 44% said they feel “fairly close.”

Orthodox Jews expressed stronger levels of identification, with 77% saying they were “very close” to Israel. Younger Jews also eclipsed older counterparts in this regard: 40% of Jews under 40 feel “very close” to Israel, compared to 24% of Jews between 40 and 59.

When it came to the peace process, the survey found the vast majority of American Jews, 94%, want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in any agreement; 61% support an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Respondents were split regarding a Palestinian state – 48% favor one and 45 oppose this – but 80% said Israel cannot make peace with a Hamas-led government. The survey showed deep suspicion of Arab intentions, with 75% saying the goal of Arabs is the destruction of Israel.

The concern extended to anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and beyond. A full 98% said anti-Semitism is a problem in the Muslim world, including 87% who said it was a “very serious” problem. Ninety-five percent said it was a problem in Europe; 91% said it was a problem in the US, including 25% who said it was a “very serious” problem and 66% who said it was “somewhat of a problem.”

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