Public Sees Shared Blame in Israel-Hezbollah Conflict

ByABC News
August 7, 2006, 3:38 PM

Aug. 7, 2006 — -- Americans find room to criticize both sides in the Israel-Hezbollah war: A majority said Hezbollah is mainly to blame for civilian casualties in Lebanon, given its location in civilian areas. But many also said Israel hasn't done enough to avoid those casualties.

Americans divide evenly on whether Israel's bombing of civilian areas is justified -- a tepid level of support for a longtime ally. And while very few blame Israel alone for the conflict, more blame both sides equally than blame only Hezbollah.

Just 38 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll said Israel is "doing all it reasonably can" to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon, while 54 percent say it should do more. In contrast, in a June ABC/Post poll, 58 percent said the United States was doing all it could to avoid harming civilians in Iraq.

Despite the lack of widespread support for Israeli actions, nearly six in 10 Americans blame primarily Hezbollah for causing Lebanese casualties by locating its rockets and fighters in civilian areas; just two in 10 said Israel is more to blame for bombing those areas.

More generally, 32 percent, said Israel has used too much force in the current conflict, about as many as say it's using the right amount. Fewer, about two in 10, said it's not using enough force.

CEASE-FIRE -- On a cease-fire, public sentiment is more with Israel. Fifty-five percent said it should agree to a cease-fire only if Hezbollah disarms first, a position taken last week by Israel and the United States alike. (A cease-fire plan at the United Nations faltered this weekend on Lebanese complaints that it didn't call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces.)

Ultimately, two-thirds support creation of a U.N. peacekeeping force to separate the combatants. But among those who support a U.N. force, nearly six in 10 say the United States should not participate in it. In addition to the risks, this likely reflects public unease with the idea of placing U.S. forces under U.N. command.