Public Opinion and the Middle East: U.S. Public Puts Higher Priority on Middle East Than Does Clinton

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Public Opinion and the Middle East: U.S. Public Puts Higher Priority on Middle East Than Does Clinton

(Prejudices change slowly, opinions can shift with a single event, and polls can be manipulated by their sponsors through timing, wording, respondent selection, or outright falsification. All, nevertheless, are straws in the wind, worthy of consideration by anyone interested in the meteorology of politics, or in modifying the political climate.)

Israelis on an Israeli-Syrian Peace

A public opinion poll released in the last week of February by the Jaffe Institute for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University found 54 percent of Israelis are willing to return parts of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria, while 46 percent oppose any withdrawal. Of the 54 percent willing to return Golan territory, 33 percent are willing to return only a small part, and 6 percent are willing to return it all.

Reasonable conclusion: In the last week of February, Israelis were not yet ready for a realistic (total withdrawal for total peace) deal with Syria.

Israelis on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The same February 1993 poll found 62 percent of the Israelis questioned favored returning some land to the Palestinians, and 89 percent strongly favored continuation of the peace talks.

Reasonable conclusion: In the last week of February, Israelis overwhelmingly wanted peace, but were not yet realistic about the amount of land seized in 1967 which must be returned to secure peace with the Palestinians.

Palestinians on the Peace Talks

Among Palestinians, a poll released at the end of February 1993 by the Palestinian-run Jerusalem Media and Communication Center found 84 percent of Palestinians opposed to renewing peace talks until the issue of the 400 Palestinian Muslims expelled last December from Israeli-occupied territories into Lebanon is resolved.

Reasonable conclusion: Barring return of the 400, or a pledge by the Israeli government not to resort to further expulsions, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are derailed.

Americans on Somalia

Among 1,300 Americans polled by CBS from Dec. 7 through 9, 1992, within days of the Bush administration's decision to use its military forces to break the gridlock on delivering humanitarian relief to Somalia, 81 percent said the U.S. was doing the right thing to send troops to Somalia to make sure food gets to the people there, and 14 percent said the U.S. should have stayed out of Somalia.

Seventy percent of the same American respondents said sending troops to Somalia is worth the possible loss of American lives, financial costs and other risks, and 21 percent disagreed.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they were very concerned U.S. troops will get bogged down in Somalia's civil war; 37 percent said they were somewhat concerned; 19 percent were not concerned.

Nine percent of the respondents expected the operation to last one or two months, 33 percent expected it to last three to six months, 34 percent expected it to last six months to a year, and 16 percent expected it to last more than a year.

Reasonable conclusion: From its beginning, the American public was overwhelmingly in favor of the humanitarian effort in Somalia; more than two- thirds thought the operation worth the costs, and an overwhelming majority thought that the operation would last longer than President Bush predicted. …