Survey: 60% of U.S. Jews Never Visited Israel

NEW YORK - Some 59 percent of American Jews have never visited Israel, with the trip's high cost the most common reason for not doing so, according to an American Jewish Committee-commissioned survey of American Jews.

While half of those who have never visited Israel said the trip's cost has been the main deterrent, 20 percent said they avoided the country for fear of their own safety, and 18 percent said it was due to "lack of interest."

The survey, whose results are slated to be published today, also found that 70 percent of American Jews oppose the war in Iraq, 28 percent support it, and 60 percent are unhappy with the way the United States is conducting its global war on terror. However, the community is almost evenly split over the question of whether it would support an American military operation against Iran if Tehran continues to develop nuclear weapons: 49 percent said they would support such an operation, while 46 percent said they would oppose it.

Asked about how close they felt to Israel, 36 percent responded "very close," while 41 percent chose "somewhat close." Only 5 percent defined themselves as "very distant," and 18 percent defined themselves as "somewhat distant."

Only 12 percent said they were more optimistic this year than last about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Arabs, while 19 percent were less optimistic. The majority, 59 percent, said their assessment is unchanged.

However, 67 percent said they support the way the current Israeli government is handling relations with the Palestinian Authority, compared to only 26 percent who are unhappy with the government's conduct in this area.

The survey also found that 56 percent of American Jews support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, while 38 percent are opposed to Palestinian statehood.