Friday, November 29, 2002 | return to: national


New poll: Jews not thrilled with Bush efforts in Mideast

by MATTHEW E. BERGER, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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WASHINGTON -- A majority of U.S. Jews rate President Bush's leadership on the Middle East as fair or poor, according to a new poll.

These results sharply contradict what has been perceived as strong support among American Jews for Bush's handling of the Middle East conflict.

The new study, funded jointly by Americans for Peace Now and the Arab American Institute, also found that large proportions of the Jewish and Arab communities in the United States would like the Bush administration to steer a middle course in the peace process. Some 45 percent of Jews and 66 percent of Arabs chose that option over policies that favor either Israel or the Palestinians.

Only 5 percent of Jews surveyed rated Bush's handling of the Middle East as excellent, with 23 percent saying it was good, 38 percent calling it fair and 31 percent describing it as poor.

The poll by Zogby International was produced in late October, and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

"I think the view was validated that a majority of American Jews want the U.S. government to be engaged in the process and move forward with a policy that would bring about peace in the Middle East," said Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.

Despite the new results, many Jewish leaders have said that Bush's June 24 speech, in which he called for Palestinians to find new leadership and implement reforms before the creation of a Palestinian state, has made him one of the most pro-Israel presidents of the last half-century.

These leaders say they feel the survey's results do not match with what they are hearing from the Jewish community.

"It's not reflective of the general population and what other polls have shown," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

A poll taken a year ago by the Republican Jewish Coalition found that two-thirds of American Jews approve of the president's handling of U.S.-Israeli relations. That poll of 400 American Jews, taken by Luntz Research Companies, had a 5 percent margin of error.

The latest survey found that a majority of both Arab and Jewish citizens would support a peace agreement between Israelis and the Palestinians that would include most of the parameters placed on the table at the Camp David talks in 2000. These would include a Palestinian state, the evacuation of most Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a limited right of return for Palestinians who lost their homes during Israel's 1948 War of Independence, a border closely resembling the 1967 border and a shared Jerusalem.

More than 51 percent of Jews supported that plan, with 30 percent opposing it. Almost 80 percent of the Arab Americans backed it as well, with roughly 11 percent opposing.

"Not only do both of these communities here accept what the ultimate outcome will be, but they support it," DeLee said.

Among the 500 Jews surveyed, 85 percent said they believed Palestinians had the right to a secure and independent state, and 96 percent said Israelis had the same right.

"If we would have done this survey in 2000, we would have expected these results," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. "But we didn't know that two years into this horrific violence, we would have gotten the same results.''

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