Mideast Arabs: Sharon worse than Bush

Poll shows that most believe Israel, US pose a greater threat than Iran's nukes.

iran anti israel 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
iran anti israel 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Middle East Arabs fear Israel more than they fear a nuclear-armed Iran, according to a poll released this month. Forty-three percent of those polled in five Arab countries said they believed Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons. Yet, when asked to choose which two countries posed the biggest threat to them, only 6% selected Iran. Israel was considered the most threatening with 70% and the US came in second with 60%. Sixty percent of those polled said they believed Iran had a right to develop nuclear weapons. Asked which world leader they disliked the most, 45% said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, while US President George W. Bush came in second with 30%. The favorite foreign leader was French President Jacques Chirac. The poll was taken during the second half of October, two months after the disengagement, yet the results show that Arabs still don't trust Israel. A quarter of those polled said they believed Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was due to "Palestinian resilience," while another quarter believed it was due to the "armed attacks on Israel by Palestinian factions." Another 20% believed it was implemented to "focus control on the West Bank." Only 5% of those polled believed the goal of disengagement was to achieve peace. Almost half said they were as optimistic about the chance for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis as they were before the withdrawal, while 30% said they were less optimistic. More than 2,600 Arabs from Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE responded to the survey, which was conducted by Zogby International and Prof. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. The margin of error for the poll in most of the countries was between 3.5% and 4.5%, with the exception of the 217 people interviewed in the UAE, where the margin of error was 6.8%. The poll also demonstrated that Arabs do not trust American intentions in the Middle East. Oil and protection of Israel were listed by those surveyed as the top American objectives in the Middle East. Human rights and spreading democracy came in last. The war in Iraq was perceived as a disaster. Eight-one percent said it brought "less peace," 78% said it brought more terrorism and 77% said the Iraqis were worse off. In addition, 55% said the war brought less democracy, while only 9% said it brought more. Those polled differentiated between US foreign policy and the values of the American people. The overwhelming majority, 80%, said their attitudes towards the US were based on US policy and not US values.