As Israel prepares for a ground offensive in Gaza, Utahns are divided on whether the United States is doing enough as one of its closest allies defends itself against Hamas.
And among the various ways the U.S. could respond to the war, a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found more support for humanitarian aid — by a wide margin — than other forms of intervention.
The poll shows 75% of Utahns are very or somewhat closely following the war that started with a Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. But only 41% say the U.S. is doing enough to respond to conflict, while 35% say it is not doing enough. Nearly a quarter of survey respondents said they don’t know.
Among those in the survey who identified themselves as Democrats, 36% said the U.S. is doing enough, while 42% said it’s not. The figures were reversed among Republicans.
In the poll, respondents were asked what type of U.S. response they would support among five options. (Participants could choose more than one.)
Humanitarian aid topped the list by far at 71%. Providing military support in the form of weapons and supplies without troops followed at 45%, while 33% favored financial assistance to support the military response. Another 20% said the U.S. should provide troop support to assist in combat. Another 15% said the U.S. should do nothing.
“I think that strikes me as a totally understandable split,” said Amos Guiora, a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law and an expert in Israeli politics and national security.
Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, saw in the poll results how Utahns’ opinions about U.S. military aid for Ukraine and Israel differed.
“Interestingly, when compared to the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Utahns are less supportive of sending military assistance (to Israel). In March 2022, 68% of Utahns supported providing military support in the form of weapons and supplies, but only 45% of Utahns would support that in Israel,” he said.
Also, Perry noted that Democrats are more willing to say they want the U.S. to provide support — whether military or humanitarian — than Republicans.
The survey found a higher percentage of Democrats favored each of those five possible U.S. responses to the Israel-Hamas war than Republicans, including providing troop support. Humanitarian assistance still garnered the most support — 81% for Democrats and 68% for Republicans.
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 802 registered Utah voters Oct. 12-23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
A dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, Guiora is currently living just outside Jerusalem. He said there are unsubstantiated rumors that U.S. Marines are “somewhere around here.” He said driving north of the city last week, he saw transport trucks carrying missiles that “seemed pretty clear” had just arrived from the United States.
“The rockets were going down south. The tanks were going up north,” he said.
Guiora said it’s difficult to gauge how much American involvement Israeli citizens want.
“Have you ever been here to Israel? Two Israelis, three opinions. Two Jews, three synagogues,” he said.
President Joe Biden has pledged that the U.S. will provide Israel what it needs to defend itself against Hamas.
The Biden administration last week proposed a $105 billion national security package that includes military and humanitarian assistance for the wars in Israel and Ukraine. The plan calls for $14.3 billion for Israel to strengthen the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense system and enhance U.S. embassy security, per CNN.
The package also contains $9.15 billion for aid for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza and other humanitarian needs, including support for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and surrounding areas.
The funding request faces an uphill battle in Congress.
Israel has vowed to destroy the militant group that controls Gaza, in response to its unprecedented Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians. More than 200 were taken hostage.
Israeli air strikes have killed more than 7,000 people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health, CBS News reported.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said in a televised address Wednesday that Israel is preparing for a ground invasion. On Thursday, the Israel military said its troops and tanks entered Gaza overnight, hitting several militant targets, according to The Associated Press.
Guiora said he believes the U.S. is playing a large role in the Israeli response to Hamas.
When Biden hugged Netanyahu on the Ben Gurion Airport tarmac last week, Guiora says the president whispered to the prime minister, “You’re pretty much going to do what we tell you to do, if you ask me.”
Guiora also said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken two weeks ago didn’t just observe but participated in an Israeli cabinet meeting. “That is as hands-on as hands-on can be,” Guiora said.
“The U.S. is clearly, clearly, very, very, very concerned about a ground incursion into Gaza,” Guiora said. “I think that Biden understands that there’s a need to conduct hits against those who were responsible for the war crime of Oct. 7. I think for President Biden there’s a real emphasis on release of the hostages.”
Guiro opposes a ground war but favors targeted air strikes on Hamas that don’t kill innocent Gazans and that minimize collateral damage.
“Some sectors of the public would probably like a ground incursion because of what happened on Oct. 7. Others like me are far more hesitant,” he said.
“The last time Jewish babies were burned was 80 years ago in the Holocaust. That’s what this was. To target them in self-defense is totally legitimate.”
As the war moves into its third week, Guiora said, “I really do believe at the end of the day the only way to resolve this is by negotiation.”