Last week two polls were released that showed Israelis felt that the “Israeli on the street” feels that President Obama is bad for Israel. One poll reported that by more than a 2 to 1 margin Israelis believe that Obama’s policies are bad for Israel. The other from The Fanis Research Institute, goes even further, it said that 59% of the Israeli public believe that the president of the United States tends to side, with the Arabs when it comes to the Arab Israeli conflict. 29% think Obama is Hostile to Israel.
The Jerusalem post released a poll today reporting that 50% of Israelis feel Obama is biased toward the Palestinians. What makes that number significant is that the same questionnaire was given before the whole “settlements” issue arose. That mid-May poll showed that only 14% of Israelis saw Obama as pro-Palestinian. What a difference a month makes:
‘6% see US administration as pro-Israel’
Only 6 percent of Jewish Israelis consider the views of American President Barack Obama’s administration pro-Israel, according to a new Jerusalem Post-sponsored Smith Research poll.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.5%, was conducted among a representative sample of 500 Israeli Jewish adults this week, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech in which he expressed his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Another 50% of those sampled consider the policies of Obama’s administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, and 36% said the policies were neutral. The remaining 8% did not express an opinion.
The numbers were a stark contrast to the last poll published May 17, on the eve of the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled the Obama administration pro-Israel, 14% considered it pro-Palestinian and 40% said it was neutral. The other 15% declined to give an opinion.
Israelis’ views of Obama’s predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, are nearly the opposite. According to last month’s poll, 88% of Israelis considered his administration pro-Israel, 7% said Bush was neutral and just 2% labeled him pro-Palestinian.
One possible explanation for the Obama administration’s plummeting approval rating among Israelis is its opposition to building for natural growth in settlement blocs and its refusal to differentiate its policies regarding construction in unauthorized outposts, settlement blocs close to the Green Line and suburbs of Jerusalem.
The poll found that Israelis, by contrast, emphatically distinguish between outposts, isolated settlements and settlement blocs in the West Bank. Regarding outposts, 57% favor removing them, 38% are against, and 5% did not express an opinion.
When asked about freezing construction in “far-flung, isolated settlements,” 52% were in favor, 42% were against and 6% would not say. But when it comes to “large settlement blocs like Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel,” just 27% said they were in favor of stopping building, 69% were against and 4% did not express an opinion.
Netanyahu’s advisers and aides offered different explanations for Israelis’ negative opinion on Obama. One said the media had exaggerated its portrayal of a strained relationship between the administrations in Jerusalem and Washington, and that Israelis overwhelmingly sided with Netanyahu.
Another adviser said polls have consistently shown that Israelis believed the Arabs were at fault for the lack of Middle East peace and they reject perceived attempts by Obama to blame Israel or take an even-handed approach.
The advisers suggested that the positive atmosphere regarding Netanyahu after his speech also had an impact. They said polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of Israelis agreed with Netanyahu’s vision and believed he was speaking for a consensus of Israelis in his response to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.
Netanyahu’s external adviser Zalman Shoval, who was speaking for himself, questioned whether the Obama administration could mediate the Middle East conflict due to the numbers and its recent statements and actions.
“Some of the indications we have seen in the last few weeks make it more difficult for Israelis to see the US in its traditional role as an honest broker,” said Shoval, a former ambassador to the US, who will head a committee on Israel-American relations that national security adviser Uzi Arad will form soon. “The vast majority of Israelis don’t blame the prime minister for a confrontation with the US. They are putting the onus on the Obama administration.”
Shoval is in Washington as a guest of local think tanks. He will meet with top American officials in the National Security Council and the State Department – not as an emissary of Netanyahu, though he will report back to the prime minister.•