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Jewish Journal

Department of No Duh: Jews dislike Bush, like Obama and Israel

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 18, 2008 | 2:04 am

J Street, the Israel lobbying organization, recently completed a large survey of American Jewish opinions. Matthew Yglesias provides this synopsis of the very, very unsurprising results:

“You’ll see that Jews massively disapprove of George W. Bush in general, and his foreign policy in particular, and his approach to the Middle East in particular particular. Jews are overwhelmingly backing Barack Obama and Democratic congressional candidates. Jews overwhelmingly favor more aggressive US diplomatic involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict, clearly believe that only a peace agreement can provide real security for Israel over the long run, and recognize the need for the United States to exert meaningful pressure on both sides to get a deal.”

Why do I say those results do little to shake the senses? To start with, we already knew that, on average, Jews don’t like Bush, and appreciate his Middle East policy even less; that they overwhelmingly support Obama, no matter what you’ve heard to the contrary; and that peace in Israel is essential for the Jewish state’s longevity. The problem is American Jews disagree on how that peace should be achieved, and at what cost.

But, more importantly, the report clearly supports the mission of J Street, which launched a few months back as an Israel lobby for doves. I’m not saying the information is biased or unreliable; it’s just not that interesting. And I apologize for sharing it with you.

Somehow, though, J Street plays this survey data as revealing “a remarkable gap between the attitudes of American Jews and the conventional wisdom about how Jews view America’s role in the Middle East.” (Phil Weiss also found the data fascinating, but had a much different read than I did: “The figures demonstrate the difficulty J Street is in.”)

Key findings from the press release are after the jump:

® Middle East Peace Is a Core Interest for the U.S. and for Israel: By a 55 to 30 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 50 to 34 margin.

® George Bush Not “Best Friend Israel Ever Had”: Sixty-one percent of Jews believe that Israel is less secure as a result of President Bush compared to 25 percent who believe Israel is more secure as a result of his presidency.
® America Should be Assertive in Middle East Diplomacy: The survey finds that American Jews strongly support assertive American diplomacy rather than letting the parties work out the conflict on their own.  The survey included an extensive exercise, first asking people whether they support the United States playing an active role in helping the parties resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Initial support for this general statement is 87 percent.  Support remained strong even after respondents were asked if they would still support an active role if it meant the U.S. publicly disagreeing with both the Israelis and Arabs or exerting pressure on both parties to make compromises: 75 percent supported public disagreement 70 percent supported the U.S. applying pressure on Israel. “Firm support” – that is, the number of people who supported all three statements – is 66 percent.

® American Jews Favor Compromise in Israeli-Arab Negotiations:  Jews are very favorably disposed toward the compromises and positions outlined in the 2000 Camp David summit and in other negotiations.  Large majorities support negotiating with Israel’s worst enemies (76 percent), withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for full peace like the arrangements with Egypt and Jordan (58 percent) and withdrawal from most of the West Bank (59 percent).  Jews overwhelming believe that the Israeli government would not agree to a dangerous peace deal, and 81 percent “will support any agreement the Israelis make with their Arab enemies.”

® Pastor Hagee and Christians United for Israel (CUFI)  Viewed Very Unfavorably: Pastor Hagee is fairly well-known among Jews (65 percent name identification) and quite disliked (7 percent favorable and 57 percent unfavorable).

® Jews are very wary of military action against Iran.  When presented with several statements about the Middle East by a Congressional candidate, respondents were most supportive of someone who says talking with Iran is not appeasement and America should pursue direct diplomacy.  Statements invoking military action against Iran test poorly throughout the survey. For example, only 26 percent of respondents were much more likely (and 48 percent total more likely) to support a Congressional candidate arguing that America should support Israel if it preemptively strikes Iran.

® 2008 Election: Jews are more supportive of Barack Obama over John McCain (62 to 32 percent) and the Democrats over the Republicans in Congressional races (69 to 27 percent).

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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