WASHINGTON -- Most of the Jewish leaders who form the backbone of American support for Israel oppose its rigid negotiating stance with the Arabs, according to a survey conducted by a California research center on Jewish issues.
The results of the poll were released yesterday on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's appearance before many of those same leaders when he speaks to the Council of Jewish Federations in Baltimore today.
The vast majority of the leaders believe that Israel should trade land for peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and allow for the gradual emergence of a demilitarized Palestinian state, the survey showed.
A smaller majority believes that Israel should return part of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for "real peace" with Damascus and for Syria's acceptance of Israel's security requirements. They would favor negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization if it ceased terror, ended the intifada and recognized Israel's right to exist.
And a large majority favors freezing West Bank settlements if necessary to get U.S. loan guarantees for the absorption of Soviet Jews.
The opinions reflected in the survey place the leaders sharply at odds with the positions of Mr. Shamir's Likud government, which publicly refuses to yield territory or freeze settlements and rejects the proposition of a Palestinian state.
The study involved telephone interviews with 205 of the combined total of 339 board members of the Council of Jewish Federations and presidents of local CJF affiliates.
The council did not dispute the survey's findings but said that "the sovereignty of the state of Israel and the right of the government of Israel to decide what is best for its people have always been respected by the CJF and its leadership."
In a statement, CJF President Charles Goodman and Executive Vice President Martin Kraar said that Jews everywhere "are truly encouraged by the hopeful beginnings of the talks."
But in the long and difficult process ahead, they said, "CJF will support the right of the government of Israel to conduct the negotiations in the best interests of its people as well as the right of CJF leadership to speak their minds."
The CJF, currently holding its general assembly in Baltimore, is described by survey sponsors as the national umbrella agency for Jewish federations, which are the "central communal philanthropic bodies in American Jewish life." Most respondents, with a median household income of more than $200,000, contribute $20,000 or more annually to the United Jewish Appeal and federation campaigns.
Sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Wilstein Institute of the University of Judaism, a research center on Jewish issues, the survey was conducted Nov. 7-17 by a Pennsylvania firm, the ICR Survey Research Group of AUS Consultants.
Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, the George Mason University professor who helped prepare the questions and analyze the results, described the Jewish leaders as "a surprisingly dovish population."
He and David Gordis, who heads the Wilstein Institute, acknowledged that yesterday's release of the survey was aimed in part at blunting a public perception that Mr. Shamir's warm welcome in Baltimore today might indicate support for his government's policies among U.S. Jewish leaders.
"Our feeling is that it's important that the warm welcome . . . not be misunderstood as an endorsement of those policies," Mr. Gordis said.
In fact, a small majority favors the more dovish Labor Party over the Likud and has a generally favorable impression of the Israeli peace movement, Peace Now.
Eighty-five percent said they disagreed with Mr. Shamir's vow not to give up "one inch" of disputed territory, and 88 percent favored "territorial compromise" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in return for "credible guarantees of peace."
Nearly all support limited autonomy for the Palestinians, and 79 percent say that after a number of years of peaceful self-rule, "Israel should be willing to allow for the gradual emergence of a demilitarized Palestinian state, with security arrangements acceptable to Israel."
Sixty-six percent would freeze West Bank settlements in return for an end to the intifada, or uprising, and a lifting of the Arab economic boycott.
Most surprising to Mr. Lipset was the attitude toward U.S. policy. Although only 49 percent considered the Bush administration's Mideast policies "somewhat helpful to Israel," most were grateful for its efforts to convene a Mideast peace conference.
Seventy-two percent, however, said the United States does not adequately appreciate Israel's security problems. In another disagreement with U.S. policy, 99 percent of respondents said that as part of any peace settlement, Israel must retain control of Jerusalem as its capital.