A Silent Majority for Peace
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
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
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
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
Debra DeLee is President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. Source: The
Forward, February 5, 2004, www.forward.com.
The Wrong Exit
Y. Beilin, one of the architects of the Geneva Accords, critically discusses
the announcement by Prime Minister A. Sharon of his intention to withdraw
unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and a few settlements in the West Bank.
Beilin argues that: “for all the public fears over concluding a permanent
status agreement […] it is hard not to see that unilateral disengagement
leaves Israel at best with what a full-fledged agreement would leave Israel
The Common Denominator:
Children with Special Needs
Y. Ettinger relates personal stories from the Lod Forum for Families with
Children with Special Needs. In this recently launched grass-roots
initiative by residents from varied ethnic and religious backgrounds in
Israel, family relatives participate in meetings dedicated to the needs of
boys and girls with disabilities and address challenges shared by those who
care for them.
In this commentary on the Geneva Accords, B. Michael, columnist for the
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth, discusses in depth the issue of
settlements and proposes creative solutions to what he considers to be a
shortcoming of the Geneva Accords: the consent to absorb settlers who are
willing to reside permanently in the future Palestinian state, while
granting them all of the rights associated with the status of residency.
Common Ground News Service
– February, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle
From the Common Ground News Service