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Opinion Polls

BICOM Poll: British attitudes towards Israel

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More than half of Brits think Israel is the UK’s main ally in the Middle East and a majority views ISIS as a threat to both countries, poll finds

According to a poll on attitudes to Israel and the Middle East published today (Tuesday, 10 November), 52% of the British public think Israel is a UK ally, more than any other country in the Middle East.

The poll, commissioned by BICOM and carried out by Populus, also shows that ISIS is seen as a significant threat both to Israel, by 57% of respondents, and the UK, by 71%. Populus questioned 2,007 respondents between 16-18 October.

On the subject of boycotts aimed at Israel, nearly half of the respondents, 47%, think BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) would hurt both the Palestinians and Israelis. 43% object to Israel being singled out for boycotts, while only 12% support it.

In addition, 23% believe BDS would make Israel more likely to negotiate a peace deal and 25% said they would be more likely to back a settlement only boycott.

When given the text of the 1917 Balfour Declaration expressing official support from the British government for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people, 40% of respondents agreed in principle this was the right position for the British government to adopt – showing support for Zionist aims – and only 17% disagreed.

The poll also shows that 19% of the public feel warm towards Israel, almost identical to response to the Palestinians (20%). Compared with the same questions asked in April 2011, the situation has not significantly changed, with warmth towards Israel marginally up from 17% in 2011.

Main findings of the poll:

  • 52% think Israel is a UK ally more than any other country in the Middle East, only 19% disagree
  • 47%, think BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) aimed at Israel would hurt both the Palestinians and Israelis, and 43% object to Israel being singled out for boycotts
  • 23% believe BDS would make Israel more likely to negotiate a deal and 25% said they would be more likely to back a settlement only boycott.
  • 45% support Israel’s right to exist conditionally on a two state solution, 17% as a majority Jewish state unconditionally, and 8% do not support the concept of a Jewish majority state at all. These figures are stable since 2011
  • When given the statement “Israel is threatened by Islamic extremists that are also enemies of Britain and the West”, 42% felt more sympathetic towards Israel, 54% said it makes no difference to their view of Israel and 5% said it makes them less sympathetic

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said: “The British public considers Israel the UK’s strongest ally in the Middle East, facing a shared threat from ISIS, and warmth towards Israel hasn’t changed significantly since 2011. There is very little support for boycotts against Israel, which demonstrates that noisy campaigns have failed to make any impact.

“As 2017 is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, BICOM was keen to assess the level of support for the original British Government policy of supporting a national home for the Jewish people. The result was fascinating – 40% of people agreed that the UK was right to pursue this policy, essentially supporting the Zionist idea, and only 17% disagreed.

“This comprehensive survey provides a unique insight into UK attitudes to Israel and it is striking that views remain very stable over the years.”