WASHINGTON (RNS) A slight majority of American Jews approve of the Obama administration’s Israel policy, but an almost equal number oppose his call for an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to a new poll.
The 2009 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion found that 54 percent of American Jews approve of Obama’s Israel policies, but 51 percent disagree with his call for Israel to halt settlement activity.
Obama has been criticized by some in the Jewish community for his handling of U.S.-Israel relations since taking office. While the survey shows his engagement with Israel is backed by slightly more than half of the American Jews, that is far fewer than the 78 percent of U.S. Jews who voted for him last November, according to exit polls.
A majority of the respondents to the survey said they would support the U.S. taking military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“Clearly, concerns are mounting over the international community’s apparent inability to deploy tough and resolute sanctions to confront a belligerent Iran determined to build nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, which sponsored the survey.
Support for military action in Iran is growing among American Jews.
A year ago, only 42 percent of respondents supported military engagement. This year, 56 percent of American Jews favor military action, and 49 percent support Obama’s handling of the Iran issue.
The survey of 800 Jewish adults, conducted between late August and mid-September, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Support for Obama varied heavily based on religious affiliation, with 59 percent of Reform Jews and 54 percent of Conservative Jews supporting the president’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, compared to just 14 percent of Orthodox Jews.
By Matthew E. Berger
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