American Jews have the right to criticize Israel, according to 66% of Israelis.
By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
The vast majority of Israelis believe that the relationship with the US is crucial to Israel's survival, and trust the US to come to its aid in time of need, according to a poll released by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies of Bar-Ilan University and the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday.
"Israelis view the US as their closest and most important ally. Similarly, US public support for Israel is based on the perception of Israel as a strategic and value-based ally.
The two countries share a truly remarkable, unique alliance," commented ADL national director Abe Foxman on the results of the poll.
According to the study, conducted by the Maagar Mochot agency among 505 adult Israelis in early May, 91 percent of Israelis believe US-Israeli relations are "essential" to Israeli security.
Eighty percent believe the US will come to Israel's aid if its existence was threatened.
Sixty-five percent "agree" or "definitely agree" that "the US is a loyal ally of Israel." Just 11% disagree.
Similarly, 64% say they have a "good" or "very good" attitude toward the US (with a negligible 8% reporting a "negative" attitude), while 60% believe the US and Israel have similar interests in the Middle East.
Israelis are most split on the question of America's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 51% believing the US could impose a solution on the two sides and 43% believing it won't.
A majority of Israelis also place the credit for the close US-Israeli relationship on Israeli strategic usefulness to the US (48%), rather than the political role of American Jews (30%) or shared "democratic tradition and values" (17%).
According to poll director Prof. Eytan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan University, "Israelis overwhelmingly appreciate US support for Israel."
Asked about their views on American Jewry, Israelis by a 2-to-1 margin said they believed "American Jews have a right to freely and publicly criticize Israel and Israeli policies," with 62% in support of this statement and less than 30% opposed.
Similarly, 52% of respondents felt that the current level of American Jewish support for Israel was sufficient, compared to 33% who wish to see it increased.
At the same time, Israelis expressed concern over assimilation among American Jews. 49% said the American Jewish community was in danger of disappearing due to assimilation, and 69% want "every American Jew to visit Israel." Unlike in many other places in the world, the Israeli concern for American Jews is not based on a perception of anti-Semitism in the host country. Israelis believe that anti-Semitism, though it exists, is not a significant problem in the US.
According to Gilboa, the new survey is the first on Israeli opinion of US-Israel relations since 1983, and the BESA Center and the ADL intended to conduct follow-up polling on a regular basis.
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