'France views on Israel are nuanced'

Poll: Majority of French distrust terror-funding Iran.

kids digging gaza 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
kids digging gaza 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A wide-ranging new poll of French adults has found that French views of Israel, while not favorable to the Jewish state, are more nuanced and complex than Israelis usually believe. While Israel lags behind the Palestinians in overall support among the French, it is Hamas leaders - not Israel - who receive greater blame for Gaza's humanitarian situation. Similarly, while they express clear opposition to Israeli military operations in Gaza, the French oppose boycotting Israel by a factor of three to one. A large majority of the country acknowledges a real problem with anti-Semitism, and Iran comes in as the top stumbling block to peace in the region in French popular opinion. The poll, made available to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, was conducted for The Israel Project by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a major polling and strategy firm, during the first two weeks of April. It surveyed 853 adults throughout France and 451 opinion makers, and has a margin of error of 3.36%. Overall, the French do not view Israel favorably. More than a third (35%) of French respondents said they viewed Israel unfavorably, while just a fifth (21%) said they viewed the country in a positive light. Similarly, the Palestinians enjoy nearly twice as much support (27%) as the Israelis (14%), though the largest group of respondents (32%) said they did not support either side. It is not surprising, therefore, that a large majority of the French disapproved of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in January: 77% opposed the action, while just 3% said they "strongly approved" of it. Yet when pollsters raised other issues, they discovered nuances in the French views on Israel. More French respondents blamed Hamas leaders for Gaza's humanitarian situation (36%) rather than Israeli leaders (26%). Fully 83% feel that a two-state solution is the "only realistic solution" to the conflict, but an identical 83% said it was "not realistic right now." Though the French are skeptical of the chances for peace, blame does not rest too heavily on Israel's shoulders. Indeed, the poll seemed to indicate that the French viewed all parties - with Iran at the forefront - as responsible for the conflict. The most widely cited obstacle to peace in the poll was Iran's "arming and funding of terrorists" (79% of respondents said stopping this activity was "very important" to "establishing a lasting peace"). Next in line was the Palestinians' shooting of rockets into Israel (75%). Israeli military incursions in Gaza came in as the third-most cited obstacle (73%), but this was followed closely by the Arab states' refusal to "accept Israel's right to exist" (69%) and the continuing "teaching of hate" in Palestinian schools (65%). A significant majority of the French also said they believed anti-Semitism was a serious problem in their country, which has seen a number of violent attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in recent years. Fully 69% said anti-Semitism was a problem, with almost two-thirds of that group (41% of all French respondents) saying it was a "very big problem." Only 8% said it was not a problem at all. Asked to explain the source of the anti-Semitic sentiments in the country, some respondents said it was found primarily among Muslim immigrant groups, while others said it was inspired by events such as Operation Cast Lead. The French do not trust Iranian intentions in the region, according to the poll. Besides the aforementioned support for terrorism, fully 76% of the French believe the Iranian nuclear program is focused on developing nuclear weapons. Just 14% disagree with that assessment. In fact, the French increasingly see Iran as a direct threat to their country. Fully 73% of respondents believed an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a threat to France, up from 64% in December 2007. Yet while this sense of danger has inspired a majority of the French to support increased sanctions (61% vs. 30% opposed), respondents were strongly opposed to military action against Iran, even multilateral action. The poll showed that 79% wanted either diplomacy or increased sanctions, while just 13% recommended multilateral military strikes to stop Iran's nuclear program. Respondents said they were specifically aware of Iran's desire to destroy Israel, but a majority (68% to 23%) opposed an Israeli strike against Iran.