Op-Ed: Most Americans Support Right of Jews to Live and Build in Judea-Samaria by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
June 10, 2003

By a margin of nearly five to one, Americans oppose the Bush administration’s demand to halt all further Jewish construction in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza.

Bush’s Road Map requires Israel to take a series of actions against Jewish resident and buildings in the territories; the Road Map does not contain any restrictions on Arab construction, even though the Arabs in those areas are building at ten times the rate of the Jews. According to the Road Map, Israel must dismantle security “outposts” near existing communities; halt all construction, even that which is needed for the natural growth of the Jewish communities; and it strongly implies that Israel must soon begin expelling Jews from Judea-Samaria-Gaza and bulldozing down their homes.

The Israeli government’s policy with regard to the Jewish communities in the territories seems to be based in part on its erroneous assumption that most Americans agree with the Bush administration’s position on this issue. But a new poll has found that the vast majority of Americans disagree with this Bush proposal. The poll, carried out by John McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed a scientific sample of 1,000 American adults on May 21, 2003. It found:

* By 61% to 13%, Americans Say Jewish Construction in Territories Should be Permitted: Asked if both Jews and Arabs should be allowed to build in the territories, as they do now, or if Jews should be prevented from building there (as the Road Map proposes), 61.5% said both Jews and Arabs should be allowed to build; only 13.5% said that only Arabs should be allowed.

* By 63% to 9%, Americans Say Jews Should Be Allowed to Live in Territories: Asked if both Jews and Arabs should be allowed to live in the territories, as they do now, or if only Arabs should be allowed to live there, 63.3% said both Jews and Arabs should be allowed; only 9% said that only Arabs should be allowed.

Americans understand it is unfair and illogical to say that 200,000 Jews should not be allowed to live among 2.5-million Palestinian Arabs, while over 1 million Arabs are living among 5 million Jews in Israel.

* Only 10% Say “Settlements” Are Main Obstacle to Peace: The Arabs, the State Department, and many media commentators often claim that the Jewish communities in the territories are the main obstacle to Arab-Israeli peace. The American public disagrees. The poll asked what is the “main obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs,” and gave four choices: the ongoing Arab violence; Palestinian Arab non-recognition of Israel; Israel’s anti-terror tactics; and the existence of Jewish communities in the territories. Only 10% blamed the Jewish communities as the main obstacle to peace.

* 64% Oppose Expelling Jews from the Territories: Asked if Jewish residents of the territories should be expelled (as the Palestinian Authority demands and the Road Map strongly implies), 64.1% said they “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with expulsion. Only 16.5% “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the idea of expelling them.

* Almost 2-1 Say Jews Have Strongest Historical Claim to Land: Asked whether the Jews or the Arabs have “the strongest historical claim” to Judea-Samaria and Gaza, 31.1% said the Jews; only 18.8% said the Arabs (the remainder were undecided or declined to answer). No surprise there. After all, any American can open the Bible and see that the Jewish connection to Judea- Samaria-Gaza goes back 3,000 years—long before there were any Arabs in the Land of Israel. Indeed, the very word “Jew” is derived from the term “Judea.”

The Bush administration’s Road Map restrictions on Jewish residents of Judea-Samaria-Gaza are clearly at odds with the views of most Americans. The vast majority of Americans understand that preventing Jews from building or living in those areas, while permitting Arabs to build and live there, is ethnic discrimination. That is both morally outrageous and contrary to basic American principles.

And the Israeli government should understand that there is strong and widespread American public support for the right of Jews to live and build in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. A firm Israeli position on this issue will find substantial support among Americans.

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