Most Americans in poll back Israel's bombing campaign


WASHINGTON -- Most Americans consider Israel's bombing campaign in Lebanon justified, but they are divided over what role the United States should play in the crisis and how closely the U.S. should align itself with the Jewish state, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The survey, conducted between Friday and Tuesday, also found that U.S. public opinion on the Middle East situation was evolving, with support for U.S. engagement in the conflict rising steadily along with the death toll - particularly after Sunday's Israeli airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in the southern Lebanon town of Qana.

The poll found that nearly three in five respondents - 59 percent - backed Israel in the dispute, which has lasted more than three weeks, leaving hundreds dead on both sides and aligning much of the world in disagreement with the United States and Israel over whether to pursue an immediate cease-fire.

President Bush has resisted such a deal until Hezbollah is disarmed and an international peacekeeping force can be assembled, a position that is generally in line with public sentiment in the United States, the survey found. Thirteen percent of respondents backed an immediate cease-fire, while 45 percent said the United States should work with both sides to forge an international agreement.

The poll found that 43 percent said Israel's bombing campaign was not excessively harsh, while 16 percent described the response as justified but excessive. Fewer than one in three respondents - 28 percent - said the response to Hezbollah was unjustified.

The poll of 1,478 adults has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

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