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Israelis Support Military Intervention against Saddam Hussein - 2003-03-19

Opinion surveys show that Israelis, perhaps more than any other people on earth, view Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a real threat to peace and security. Ross Dunn in Jerusalem has more on the latest survey of Israeli attitudes toward a war to oust Iraq's leader.

Conducted on behalf of the Israel Forever Foundation, the poll concluded that the vast majority of Israelis support a military offensive to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Israeli publicist Myra Clark-Siegal, who presented the findings this week on behalf of the Washington-based pro-Israel organization, summed up the results.

"By a four to one ratio, Israelis felt that if war came to Iraq, the situation in Israel, long-term, would be greatly improved," she said. "Now that is not to say that is pro-war but it seems to be supportive of the American position."

Ms. Clark-Siegal says these findings indicate that Israelis want Saddam removed for at least two reasons: his financial support for Palestinian terrorism and because of his arsenal of weapons, including Scud missiles.

"I think Israelis see Saddam Hussein as a threat on multiple fronts. Not only terror because obviously, we see that Saddam Hussein pays families of those who commit terror attacks against Israeli citizens," she added. "But there are also obviously the long term and the longer range types of threats because we see that Scuds have been moved into parts of Iraq that could reach Israel. I think that it is a two-front threat that we feel."

Ms. Clark-Siegal says it is clear that Israelis, faced with hostile neighbors, have different perceptions than citizens in many other nations.

"We live in a dangerous neighborhood and so our experience is vastly different from other countries, where they don't have the experiences that we have," she explained. "If you look at some of the survey questions that talk about, for example, how Israelis see, or feel, how the rest of the world feels towards them, where this an overwhelming response that both the world, doesn't care what happens to Israel or Israelis or completely dislikes them."

Only the United States is viewed by Israelis as a trusted ally. And Ms. Clark-Siegal says that makes Israelis very pro-American.

"The response on the survey was extraordinary actually, out of an open-ended question, the United States, 81 percent of the time was cited as Israel's best friend," she emphasized. "I think it shows common values, shared values and a shared appreciation of what faces the world and threat of terror around the world."

Similar findings about Israeli attitudes toward war with Iraq were made by the Tami Steimetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University.

In its latest monthly survey, the center found 77.5 percent of Jewish respondents favor a U.S. military campaign against Iraq.