Wednesday, June 14, 2006

European Public Opinion on Israel

Olmert and Chirac in front of the Palais de l'Élysée (AP/REMY DE LA MAUVINIERE)

Olmert is currently on a tour of European capitals that has included meetings with British PM Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac so far. His stop in Paris, which began on Wednesday, June 14, coincided with the release of some interesting and pertinent new poll data by the Pew Research Center. According to the Center's survey of 17,000 people around the world, pro-Israel sentiment has shot up in Europe:
There has been a marked change in views of the Middle East conflict in both Germany and France. In both countries, increasing numbers sympathize with Israel; Germans now side with Israel over the Palestinians by about two-to-one (37%-18%) (PEW Center).
Perhaps the biggest surprise is France, regarded by many Jews as Israel's most intractable foe on the continent. According to Shmuel Rosner of Ha'aretz, 38% of French respondents side with the Israelis, and 38% side with the Palestinians; the "tie" is a marked improvement over previous results. A different poll conducted by The Israel Project registered a drop in pro-Palestinian sentiment in France from 47% (in 2002) to 21% today.

In Britain, however Palestinians still draw 4% more support than Israel. Anti-Israel sentiment was strongest among Spanish respondents. Interestingly enough, PEW reports a similar decline in approval of the US:
Just 37% of the Spanish feel favorably toward Americans, down from 55% last year.
It remains to be seen what effects if any these poll data will have on the reception accorded to Olmert's "convergence" plan in Europe - on which more to follow.

Also significant is that 77% of Turks, often perceived as America's allies in the Muslim world, now describe themselves as being opposed to America's war on terror (up from 56% in 2004). At the same time, the PEW Center notes that
Negative views of France have increased over the past year, especially in Muslim countries. In Turkey, 61% feel unfavorably toward France, up from 51% last year.
These numbers from Turkey are probably a reflection of France's (relatively) bold stance on recognition of the Armenian genocide, and French legislators' attempts to outlaw its denial (see our earlier post on this).

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