Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Poll Shows Broader Israeli Support For Obama Than Previously Reported


How Israelis view Obama explored

The results of New America Foundation’s national survey of 1,000 Israelis reveals a very different picture from the narrative that has taken hold regarding Israeli attitudes toward President Obama and American efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Despite repeated media reports touting a “4 percent Obama approval rating” and arguments that the United States has lost the Israeli public’s support for renewed peace efforts, Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama, and there is solid backing for an American-sponsored final status agreement along the lines of
where the parties left off nine years ago at Taba and in the recent Olmert-Abbas negotiations. The survey also shows that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a great deal of political space to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians, including within his own party.

The NAF survey, conducted by Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications examined several aspects of Israeli public opinion and the dynamics underlying the first year of the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, ranging
from attitudes toward President Obama and the relationship with the United States to the aspirations and fears that people have about a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It also examined the overall national mood and political landscape that sets the context in which policy decisions in Israel are received by its citizens.

The survey finds that as the Obama administration continues its efforts to assert American leadership to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is very clear that it does so from a position of strength when seen through the prism of Israeli public opinion.

Overall, the survey finds, Obama has a 41 percent favorable/37 percent unfavorable rating. This is actually notably stronger than opinion toward the Israeli defense and foreign ministers. Obama's unfavorable rating is just four points higher than the unfavorable rating for George W. Bush. This is significant because Bush is routinely characterized as very popular among
Israelis.

According to the survey, a majority of Israelis (55 percent) believe Obama is honest and trustworthy – considerably higher than the 36 percent who believe the same of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Fifty-two percent believe Obama will strengthen America’s standing in the world.

There are though also doubts centered on whether the president understands the threats facing Israelis, with large numbers believing he is weak on terrorism (50 percent) and naïve (43 percent). Overall, 42 percent of Israelis believe Obama supports Israel, compared to 55 percent who do not - not a high level of confidence for an American president, but much stronger than the abysmal and frequently (but incorrectly) reported 4 percent approval rating that has driven conventional wisdom on Obama’s support in
Israel.

By a 65 to 31 percent margin, Israelis believe that the U.S. is the only powerful country that Israel can count on in the world today. Further, they do not believe Israel will be able to build alliances with other powers if relations with the U.S. ever deteriorate.

Ultimately, if Obama were to put forward a peace plan based on the previous
Taba talks then it receives majority Israeli public support so long as Netanyahu is on board (53% to 45%). But Israeli opinion is evenly split (48 percent each) if Netanyahu rejects the plan.

The Israeli public is concerned that U.S. support could be endangered if Israel rejects a U.S.-sponsored final status agreement – but the question is simply not seen as urgent and Israelis do not feel any sense of crisis in the relationship with the U.S. – despite the recent spat over settlements.

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Photo/http://www.flickr.com/photos/werkunz/3367966432/

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