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Indians softer on Israel than their govt: Poll

world Updated: Sep 23, 2011 02:42 IST
Yashwant Raj

Two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote a letter of support to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a DC-based non-profit outfit released poll findings on Wednesday showing most Indians back Israel.

The outfit, The Israel Project, claims no affiliation to the Israeli government but is at the forefront lobbying for Israel, alongside the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee.

Of those interviewed, 35% said India should support Israel in its ongoing conflict with Palestine, 18% weighed in on the side of Palestine and 26% said they couldn't say or leaned towards one of the two.

The survey was conducted for the project by Public Opinion Strategies, a US-based political and public affairs research firm, from August 21 to September 4, around the time of Abbas's announcement of his plans for UN recognition.

The Palestinian Authority president is likely to announce his plan during his address to the General Assembly on Friday, with Prime Minister Singh possibly in the audience.

Abbas was earlier expected to put the plan before the Security Council, but with the US certain to veto it killing it at birth - President Obama announced opposition to it in his speech Wednesday, he may choose the UN General Assembly route.

That would make no difference to India's plan, though. Indian officials have steadfastly maintained that despite deepening ties with Israel, India is unwavering in its support to statehood for Palestine.

Though the poll didn't give any clue to what Indians thought of Abbas's UN plan, it did indicate that they seemed a little less committed to the Palestinians and their cause than their government.

The survey covered 4,775 respondents in 42 cities and towns, in face-to-face interviews.

A majority of them - 41 % -- said they believed the conflict between Israel and Palestine was one about religion and ideology and a peace agreement between the two will only be possible if they acknowledge each other's right to exist.

And when asked for reasons - to choose from a set of responses - for why Indian should be closer to Israel, the respondents cited common security concerns and shared values such as freedom of speech, religion, press and right to vote.