By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
J-Street, the newish "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group founded as a dovish Jewish counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is out with a new poll of American Jews that finds broad support for President Obama and for a U.S. diplomatic effort in the Middle East. That includes working with a unified Hamas-Palestinian Authority government to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
- Strong Support for President Obama and His Policy in the Middle East: President Obama begins his Middle East efforts with extraordinarily high personal favorability (74 percent favorable) and job approval (73 percent) among American Jews. Jews believe that President Obama is honest and trustworthy (76 percent), that he shares their values (73 percent), and that he is restoring America's standing in the world (78 percent). Trust in the new American president also extends to his Middle East policy, with 72 percent approving of the way he is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict, 76 percent believing that he supports Israel, and 69 percent thinking that he "has a good vision for advancing Middle East peace."
- Middle East Peace Is a Core Interest for the United States and for Israel: By a 51-to-32 percent margin, Jews believe Middle East peace is a core American interest. When asked whether military superiority alone or a peace agreement with a strong military would provide better security for Israel, Jews favor a peace agreement by a 49-to-36 percent margin.
- American Jews Oppose Settlement Expansion: By a margin of 60 to 40 percent, American Jews oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank based on "what they know" and after receiving short statements by supporters and opponents of settlement expansion. Simply put, attitudes toward settlements are highly negative and firmly held. Not surprisingly, opposition to settlements is higher among Reform (64 percent oppose) and unaffiliated Jews (69 percent oppose), in contrast to Orthodox Jews, who strongly support settlements (80 percent support). But one very interesting demographic finding is the strong opposition (72 percent oppose) among Jews who give money to political campaigns.
- Support for Engaging a Palestinian Unity Government Including Hamas: Sixty-nine percent of Jews support the United States working with a unified Hamas-Palestinian Authority government to achieve a peace agreement with Israel, even when informed that the United States does not recognize Hamas because of its terrorism and refusal to recognize Israel. Interestingly, precisely the same percentage of Israelis in a recent Hebrew University poll support the government of Israel negotiating with such a unity government.
- Deep Communal Divides on Iran : In the wake of America's experience in Iraq, American Jews—like other Americans—are wary of going to war again in the Middle East. But there is also concern among Jews about Iran's nuclear development, and Jewish views are mixed when it comes to what America should do regarding Iran. When given the fundamental choice of whether the United States should militarily attack Iran if it is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, Jews are split evenly, 41-40. An unusually high 16 percent could not even bring themselves to a decision and just chose "Neither." There is a similar 39-37 result when American Jews are asked to choose between direct negotiations that provide Iran incentives to abandon its nuclear weapons program and sanctions that force Iran to choose between nuclear weapons and international isolation.