Poll: More Israelis than not like Obama


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Forty-one percent of Israelis have favorable feelings toward President Obama, with 37 percent expressing an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. president, according to a New America Foundation poll.

The poll of 1,000 Israelis also found that 42 percent of Israelis believe Obama "supports Israel," with 55 percent feeling that statement does not describe Obama.

The finding that 41 percent of Israelis have a favorable opinion of the president contrasts with a Jerusalem Post poll over the summer, often cited in the media, which found that just 4 percent of Israelis believed Obama’s policies are "pro-Israel."

Jim Gerstein of Gerstein/Agne Strategic Communications, which conducted the survey, said the earlier poll has been mischaracterized as Obama’s approval rating in Israel, and noted that if one adds the 35 percent in the Post poll who answered "neutral" to the 4 percent who replied that Obama was "pro-Israel," one gets a result consistent with the 41 percent in the New America poll.

The poll was taken from Nov. 8-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. Gerstein/Agne also has conducted polls for the left-wing pro-Israel group J Street; Gerstein is a member of its advisory council. Sixteen percent of the group surveyed was Israeli Arabs.

Obama’s favorable rating was higher than those garnered by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (30 percent) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (38 percent), but lower than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 51 percent and two previous U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton (59 percent) and George W. Bush (48 percent).

The poll also found that Israelis value their alliance with the United States, with 65 percent saying they believe that the U.S. is the "only powerful country that Israel will ever be able to count on to support us in international institutions." Thirty-one percent did not agree with that view.

In addition, Netanyahu would receive strong backing for any peace agreement he might sign. Sixty-nine percent approve of his handling of security and 59 percent say they would support "any agreement he reaches with our enemies." That includes 75 percent of Likud Party voters, 67 percent of Kadima voters and 51 percent of Yisrael Beiteinu voters.

Gerstein noted, however, a lack of urgency among Israelis for a peace agreement, with 50 percent saying Israel "cannot afford to continue the current situation" and 46 percent saying that it can "continue the current situation as long as necessary and should not rush into a peace agreement."

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