New Poll Shows Americans Concerned about Egypt, Arab Spring

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A significant majority of Americans are concerned about the rise of the Islamist government of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, and nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters favor cutting aid to Egypt if the country abrogates its peace agreement with Israel, according to a recent poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of The Israel Project. Moves by Egypt to undermine democracy or not protect religious freedom also are reasons to cut U.S. aid, with Democratic voters seeing those moves as equally compelling as violations of the Camp David accords, while GOP voters are slightly more concerned with Egypt’s keeping peace with Israel.

The upheaval in the Middle East known as “The Arab Spring,” has coincided with a significant jump in the percentage of American support for Israel, which is up by eight points during the past year, to 68 percent.

“Given the turmoil in the Middle East, increased support among the American public for deepening the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel is both a natural reaction and good policy,” TIP CEO Josh Block said. “Americans know that Israel is our greatest and only truly reliable ally in the region, and that is more true today than ever.”

Americans overwhelmingly favor (69 percent) a two-state solution for “Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people,” and 57 percent oppose a U.N. resolution in favor of a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace agreement between the parties, with just 27 percent in favor of a unilateral declaration of independence.

“For more than 60 years, Israel has been extending its hand in peace to all their neighbors, and the Israeli people overwhelming favor a negotiated two-state solution. For those of us here in the U.S. who very much want Israel’s dream of peace become a reality, the Palestinian unilateral effort at the U.N. – which will not result in any gain for people in the West Bank or Gaza, or a ‘state of any kind,’ since the UNGA doesn’t have that authority – is a sad distraction, and the American public understands that,” Block said.

The number of Americans expressing support for strengthening or maintaining America’s relations with Israel also rose eight points, to 81 percent of voters in November 2012 compared to 73 percent of registered voters in November 2011, with nearly half of American voters now saying they want to “strengthen” the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Increasing support for a close and growing U.S.-Israel alliance permeated views on wider Middle East policy throughout the survey. Fifty-nine percent of American voters say the United States should work more closely with Israel in the Middle East, versus just 24 percent who say the U.S. should work more closely with Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Fifty-five percent of American voters believe new governments like the one in Egypt threaten U.S. security interests, while forty-one percent strongly express that view. Just thirty percent believe the new governments do not threaten U.S. security interests because “they are likely to be moderate and become more pro-Western.”

Fifty-nine percent of American voters agree the U.S. should cut back its foreign aid to Egypt if the U.S. thinks Egypt is not keeping its treaty obligations to Israel, ignoring the argument that Egypt “has been a critical ally.” A large majority (76 percent) agrees – and 56 percent strongly agree – that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is vital to U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Unfavorable feelings toward Iran continue to be strong. Just nine percent hold a favorable view of Tehran, with 69 percent of American voters having an unfavorable view. In fact, there is a ten percent increase over the past year in support for the U.S. coming to the military defense of Israel against an Iranian attack. Seventy-one percent of American voters support the U.S. coming to the military defense of Israel if Israel were to strike Iranian nuclear facilities to keep it from getting nuclear weapons and then Iran attacked Israel in response. Furthermore, there is a very high intensity, with 49 percent of American voters strongly supporting this. One year ago, in November 2011, 61 percent of American registered voters supported military defense, with 39 percent strongly supporting.

“Imagine a world in which Iran goes nuclear. Will their abysmal human rights record improve?  Will their effort to threaten and dominate their Arab neighbors be less menacing? Will their threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and disrupt the global economy be less dangerous? Will their terrorist proxies, who already seek to attack right here in the United States, be more restrained? As President Obama has said repeatedly, Iran’s nuclear pursuit must be stopped, and the American people firmly believe that,” Block said.

American voters say the top reasons for the U.S. to be concerned about an Iranian nuclear program include the Iranian government’s statements regarding wiping Israel “off the map;” an acceleration of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East; and that the Iranian government arms and funds terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The “nuclear arms race” fears have merit. A separate poll conducted by TIP in Egypt this summer shows Egyptians want their own nuclear weapons. Likely a result of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, 87 percent of those surveyed agreed that Egypt, despite enormous financial problems and eight billion U.S. dollars in debt, should put its resources into developing nuclear weapons. Also revealing is Iran’s increasing popularity in Egypt, with 65 percent of the respondents approving of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi government’s decision to resume diplomatic relations with Iran and 60 percent agreeing that re-establishing a relationship with Iran will be good for Egypt.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of The Israel Project. The respondents were interviewed via the telephone, November 6-8, 2012, beginning on election night to assess where voters were just after casting their ballots. The margin of error for the survey is 3.5%.

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