Poll: American public backs Israel firmly in war with Hamas

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 13, 2009 

WASHINGTON — As Palestinian casualties mount in the Gaza Strip, the American people are squarely behind Israel and overwhelmingly think that using force against Hamas is appropriate, according to a new McClatchy/Ipsos poll.

Forty-four percent of Americans support Israel's use of force, while only 18 percent considered Hamas' use of force appropriate. Fifty-seven percent think that Hamas is using excessive force, while only 36 percent said Israel was.

Nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the violence — soldiers and civilians — and at least nine Israeli soldiers and four civilians have died.

When it comes to who's to blame for the latest Middle East crisis, Americans blame Hamas hands down: Forty-four percent said Hamas, 14 percent said Israel and 29 percent said they weren't sure. Nine percent said both, and 4 percent said neither.

Washington is trying to figure out how to deal with the violence, with Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton attempting to take an honest broker's approach during her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

"The president-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel's desire to defend itself under current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian cost in the Middle East and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians."

The Hamas-Israel battle appears to have given Americans pause about the creation of an independent Palestinian state, which was the goal of the Bush administration and leading lawmakers of both parties.

When those polled were asked whether the United States should favor a Palestinian state, 45 percent said it shouldn't, 31 percent said it should and 24 percent said they didn't know.

Americans aren't sure that President-elect Barack Obama will be able to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Some 51 percent said they weren't confident that he could, while 32 percent said they were somewhat confident and 10 percent very confident that he could resolve the conflict.

The McClatchy/Ipsos Poll was conducted from Jan. 6 through Monday with a nationally representative sample of 1,054 adults 18 and older. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.02 percentage points.

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