In what officials of the group were pitching as a statistical response to a recent survey of Jewish public opinion by the dovish J Street, the Anti-Defamation League this week released a poll showing significantly lower approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of Middle East issues and overwhelming support for Israel’s military operations in Gaza early this year.
While the president on Tuesday made his strongest statement yet promising direct and energetic involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, ADL Director Abraham Foxman told The Jewish Week that American Jews do not see aggressive U.S. action as critical and “do not support pressure” on Israel as a way of advancing the peace process — refuting a key conclusion of the J Street poll.
Forty-seven percent Values To Heal America of respondents said that “lasting peace is up to Israelis and Palestinians,” compared to 44 percent who said there can be “no peace without U.S. leadership.”
That contrasts with J Street numbers, although direct comparisons are impossible because the two groups asked different questions. In the J Street poll, released in early March, 88 percent said they support the U.S. playing an “active role in helping the parties resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to the ADL, 55 percent of Jewish respondents approve of “the way President Obama is handling U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinian territories,” while 21 percent disapprove.
J Street asked a slightly different question — whether respondents “approve or disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict.” In that poll, 72 percent approved, 28 percent disapproved.
Other results were consistent between the two surveys. In this week’s ADL poll, 74 percent of respondents said they approved of Israel’s military actions in Gaza this winter; in the J Street poll, the number was 75 percent. On Iran, 50 percent supported “direct talks with no preconditions,” with 44 percent opposing. But if diplomacy and sanctions fail, 55 percent would support “the United States destroying the Iranian nuclear facilities,” with 27 percent opposing. Slightly more would support Israeli military action.
The poll’s bottom line? “American Jews continue to believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbor and continue to understand the threats to Israel and its legitimate right to defend itself, whether against Hamas rockets or Iran nuclear capabilities,” Foxman said.