A Silent Majority for Peace

By Debra Delee

Published February 06, 2004, issue of February 06, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Campaign season is here, and it’s important for candidates to remember that the loudest voices in communities don’t always reflect the thinking of the people they claim to represent. Such is currently the case with the American Jewish community. Contrary to what some may think, American Jews strongly favor political candidates who back active U.S. engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, agree that America needs to be evenhanded if it wants to broker a peace treaty, and give low marks to President Bush for his handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to a recent telephone survey conducted on behalf of Americans for Peace Now.

At the same time, the American Jewish community supports the Geneva Understandings, the unofficial peace agreement reached between leading Israeli and Palestinian moderates that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both countries.

Five hundred American Jews were included in the random sample surveyed by Zogby International between January 12 and January 15. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%.

The poll found that 71.6% of American Jews would be more likely to support a political candidate who says that the United States must actively be engaged in trying to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Furthermore, while parts of the organized American Jewish community reacted viscerally when Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean suggested that the United States needed to be evenhanded in trying to broker an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 67.8% of American Jews believe that this is the right way for America to approach negotiations.

Given President Bush’s disengagement from a peace process that American Jews support, it was not surprising to find that 76% of American Jews gave a negative evaluation of his handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with 37.9% calling it fair and 38.1% saying it was poor.

The survey also posed a series of questions about the Geneva Understandings.

First, respondents were asked about their views on Geneva, with 43.2% of American Jews saying they strongly or somewhat support the agreement, while 8.9% do not support it. However, a significant segment of the community (44.4%) said that they were not familiar enough with it to have an opinion.

Second, respondents were asked if they were more or less likely to support the Geneva Understandings after they were read a description of the agreement. People were told that Geneva includes: an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, a joint commitment to security and fighting terrorism, the evacuation of most Israeli settlements, the creation of a border roughly along the 1967 Green Line, a resolution to the Palestinian refugee issue consistent with Israel retaining its sovereignty over its immigration policy, split sovereignty over Jerusalem holy sites and Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states.

After learning more about the document, a majority of American Jews (50.2%) said they were more likely to back Geneva, 22.4% said they were less likely, 16.7% said the additional information did not affect their views and 10.7% were not sure. This level of support for Geneva is even more impressive when compared to approval ratings found among Israelis and Palestinians, which tend to be in the 40% range.

Respondents were then asked about specific components of the Geneva Understandings.

The agreement calls for international funding and peacekeeping forces to help with its implementation. American Jews were supportive of American contributions in both areas, but financial aid had more support (83.9%) than the use of U.S. peacekeepers (61.8%).

The opening language of Geneva calls for recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood and recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, a sentiment shared by 85.4% of American Jews.

According to Geneva, Palestinian refugees would be entitled to compensation for their refugee status and loss of property, as well as guaranteed a right to settle in the new Palestinian state or third countries. In addition, Geneva would allow Israel to make a sovereign decision about how many refugees, if any, would be allowed inside its borders. A full 60.3% of American Jews said they support this formula, compared with 25.9% who oppose it.

For American Jews, the most controversial Geneva provision is the one calling for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of both a future Palestinian state and the State of Israel. Still, a plurality of American Jews (46.9%) said that they support the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem being recognized as the Palestinian capital and the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem being recognized as the Israeli capital, with 39.4% saying they oppose this arrangement.

The latest survey of American Jews found our community to be much more supportive of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — and American political leaders who back it — than many people believe to be the case. It’s an important lesson for politicians to keep in mind on the campaign trail.

Debra DeLee is president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.






Find us on Facebook!
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.