Americans unhappy with US Mideast policy

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Americans are showing significant disenchantment with their government’s policy towards Israel and nearly half of them want a more balanced approach to the Middle East conflict, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the Doha Debates.

The survey, conducted by the American market research company Zogby International, sought the views of 4,340 American adults between April 1 and April 4.

It followed last month’s special session of the Doha Debates at Washington’s Georgetown University, where 63 percent of the mainly student audience voted that the administration of President Barack Obama should take a tougher line on Israel.

Nearly 70 percent of Democrats favour a tougher US line on Israeli settlements.

Overall, 71 percent of Americans have a favourable view of Israel, compared to only 25 percent who approve of the Palestinians. Nearly 50 percent regard aid to both sides as excessive — and the same percentage would like the administration to steer a “middle course” between them.

Despite heavy Palestinian casualties during the recent conflict in Gaza, 36 percent are now more supportive of Israel, compared to 29 percent who have a less favourable view of the country. By contrast, the opinion poll showed Americans nationwide evenly divided on the issue.

Eighty­four percent agree the continuing Israeli­Palestinian conflict negatively impacts US interests in the Middle East. Americans are evenly divided over whether the Bush administration acted as an honest broker in the Middle East. Forty­six percent agree the Bush administration did act as an honest broker, while 43 percent disagree.

While 71 percent of the respondents believed the Bush administration leaned more toward Israel in its handling of the conflict, nearly half (49 percent) believe the Obama administration should steer a middle course. Support for the pro­settlement position has increased slightly since 2006, but the respondents were still divided over the issue.

While a majority support suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the electoral victory of Hamas, the respondents were evenly divided over whether or not the United States should engage Hamas.

The respondents were also evenly divided when asked if the United States should “get tough with Israel.” Forty­four percent of respondents believed that support for Israel made the United States less respected across the globe.

When told that the US had pledged $30bn in military aid to Israel and $900m in humanitarian and development aid to the Palestinians, nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said both amounts were too large.

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