Americans high on support for Israel, wary of military role in Mideast
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Americans high on support for Israel, wary of military role in Mideast

Only 40% of respondents to ADL survey think the US should back Israeli military action against Iran

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

While American public support for Israel is at its highest in recent years, attitudes toward US involvement in Middle East affairs are mixed, according to a survey released by the Anti-Defamation League Tuesday.

More than 75 percent of respondents said Israel is a strong ally of the US, according to the ADL poll, entitled “2013 Survey of American Attitudes on Israel, The Palestinians and the Middle East.” By comparison, a similar 2009 poll found that only 67% of Americans considered Israel a strong ally of their country.

“This latest survey of the American people shows that Americans continue to see Israel as America’s closest ally in the Middle East and a willing partner for peace with the Palestinians,” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said. “American public sympathy for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians is at an all-time high.”

Sixty-four percent of Americans polled said they believed Israel is serious about reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and three times as many people — 48% compared to 16% — said they were more sympathetic toward Israel than the Palestinians.

When questioned about US involvement in the region, however, respondents had mixed views, specifically regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. A 62% majority said any peace deal between the two should come with minimal US involvement, while only 29% said US involvement was absolutely necessary.

Although respondents expressed a general distrust of Iran, with 81% saying they couldn’t trust Iran not to develop nuclear weapons and 74% that they didn’t trust Iran to keep its promises not to, support for US or Israeli military action against Iran was not as strong.

Half of those surveyed said they support US military intervention, if necessary, to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, while 41% oppose it. Only 46% said they believed sanctions against the Islamic Republic should remain in place until it dismantles its nuclear program, as opposed to 42% who did not.

Meanwhile, 40% favored US support for an Israeli strike on Iran. Only 9% percent said the US should oppose it, and 48% said the US should remain neutral.

“What we see here are two trends,” Foxman said. “On the one hand, Israel is in as good a position with the American public as it ever has been. On the other hand, there are signs here as elsewhere that the American people want less US involvement in the Middle East region, a position which has little to do with negative feelings toward Israel but that can have negative consequences for the Jewish state.”

Reluctance over US involvement was not restricted to Iranian and Israeli affairs. Respondents indicated that the American public is still largely against military involvement in Syria.

Even if Syrian President Bashar Assad fails to destroy his country’s chemical weapons, 53% said they were against US intervention, and 64% are opposed to working to remove Assad from power.

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