- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

More Americans support the Israelis rather than the Palestinians in the current Mideast conflict, but they blame both groups for not reaching peace in the region, the latest public opinion polls show.
Fifty percent of Americans sympathize with the Israelis, compared with 15 percent who side with Palestinians in the latest dispute, the Gallup poll shows.
In addition, 67 percent of Americans believe Israel was justified in taking military action against the Palestinians in response to recent suicide bombing attacks, according to a CBS News poll.
The leader of a Jewish group said American support is vital in Israel's conflict with Palestinians.
"The support of the American people, the U.S. government and the administration is critical when other political groups and governments are seeking to distort Israel's record and isolate it," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York.
A Muslim leader said yesterday he is not disheartened by the latest polls.
"These polls are selective and are conducted with an aim in mind," said Faiz Rehman, spokesman for the American Muslim Council in Washington. "To an extent, these polls reflect the deeply rooted misperceptions that Americans have of Muslims. But the results don't discount what's happening in the Middle East."
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows 36 percent of Americans believe that the Israelis and the Palestinians both should take the blame for failing to reach a peace agreement in the region. Thirty-three percent blame the Palestinians and 12 percent blame Israel, according to that poll.
Also, 41 percent of Americans say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat should leave their posts for both groups to reach a peace agreement, the Fox survey shows. Twenty-five percent say only Mr. Arafat should step down.
The same survey also shows that 63 percent of Americans oppose sending U.S. troops to the Middle East now to bring about a cease-fire. But 48 percent also said they would support sending troops there to keep the peace after a treaty is signed.
A recent Gallup Poll shows Republicans give larger margins of support than Democrats to Israel over the Palestinians. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans side with the Israelis, while 45 percent of Democrats support them. The poll also shows that 54 percent of white Americans support Israel, compared with 38 percent of nonwhites.
Meanwhile, President Bush continues to get high marks for his job performance. Voters gave Mr. Bush a 69 percent approval rating, down from the 88 percent he received in October, a few weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to a Zogby International poll.
"The laws of politics and gravity converge," pollster John Zogby said. "It is very hard for any president to sustain stratospheric job-approval ratings."
Mr. Bush is also receiving high marks for his handling of the conflict in the Middle East. About 60 percent of Americans approve of the way Mr. Bush is coping with the conflict, and 48 percent believe the president has treated both sides fairly, a Newsweek poll shows.
However, 35 percent of those surveyed say the Bush administration has made little progress in achieving peace. Thirty percent say Mr. Bush has made some progress, and 24 percent say he has made no progress, the poll shows.
In addition, 51 percent of Americans say the Bush administration does not have "a well-thought-out plan" for ending violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Sixty-two percent said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's recent visit to the Middle East was "worthwhile," the poll shows.
The CBS poll also shows that 42 percent of Americans favor the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The same poll further shows that 51 percent of those polled think Israel should maintain its presence in the areas it occupies, compared with 28 percent who think it should withdraw.

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