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British public's feeling about Israel revealed by new survey

The poll, conducted for Bicom found that 38 per cent of people thought the British government made the right decision on the Balfour Declaration

    As the community prepares to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration next week, polling has revealed Britons now feel more favourably towards Israel than at any point since 2010.

    The poll, conducted for Bicom, the Israel and Middle East think tank, also found that 38 per cent of people thought the British government made the right decision in 1917 in issuing the declaration.

    That figure is down five per cent from a year ago, although this year fewer people said they thought it was the wrong policy. Forty-five per cent said they did not know.

    James Sorene, Bicom chief executive, said the figures showed “significant support” for a Jewish homeland, highlighting a “significant silent majority” of Zionist supporters in Britain.

    A series of events will take place across the country next week, including a gala dinner hosted by Lord Rothschild on November 2 — the 100th anniversary of the declaration. Synagogues, community groups, charities and the Speaker of the House of Commons are hosting celebrations during the week.

    A pro-Palestinian rally, which has widespread trade union support, will take place in London next Saturday.

    The poll, conducted this month by Populus with a nationally-representative sample of more than 2,000 British adults, also found the lowest level of support for a boycott of Israel since 2014 — at just 11 per cent.

    Almost half of respondents said they did not support boycotts and they “find it difficult to understand how others do”, although this number was marginally lower than it was last year.

    Support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) has fallen dramatically in the past three years among younger voters — usually seen as the demographic group most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

    Forty-five per cent of 18-24 year olds said they opposed boycotts — up from 28 per cent in 2015.

    Mr Sorene said: “There has been a big shift away from support for boycotts among 18-24 year olds. Some may find that surprising, given they are seen as more radical, and you hear about the student politics on campus being perhaps more pro-boycott.”

    The poll also found Brits feel marginally more favourable towards Israelis than Palestinians — 23 per cent compared to 21 per cent — and Israel is considered the UK’s most important Middle Eastern ally in the fight against terrorism.

    The country is also seen as the fourth most vital post-Brexit trading partner in the region, after Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

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