Only 9 percent of Israeli Jews believe that President Obama is pro-Israel, according to a poll taken by Smith Research on behalf of the Jerusalem Post. 48 percent said that the Obama favors the Palestinian side, while 30 percent said his administration is neutral. The remaining 13 percent expressed no opinion.
The 9 percent number is up from 4 percent last August, but the difference is only slighly outside the margin of error. Moreover, the poll was taken before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chily reception at the White House on Sunday.
President Bush was considered pro-Israel by 88 percent of Israeli Jews, with only 2 percent believing he was pro-Palestinian. And in May of last year, on the eve of the first White House meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, 31 percent labeled Obama pro-Israel, with only 14 deeming him pro-Palestinian.
Obama needs numbers like he had last May, or better, if he is to influence Israeli public opinion in a way that helps achieve his goals. I take those goals to be (1) causing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians and (2) causing the downfall of the Netanyahu government. Stated differently, Netanyahu is in a good position to tell Obama what he can do with his demands, though he is best advised to do so circumspectly.
The Jersusalem Post’s poll may, at first, seem inconsistent with the results of a Dialog poll published last week in Haaretz. Both the English and Hebrew editions of Haaretz led with the headline: “Poll: Most Israelis see Obama as fair, friendly toward Israel” and the Englishe edition claimed that 69 percent of those polled said Obama is “fair and friendly.”
However, as the Jerusalem Post notes, in reality only 18 percent of respondents considered Obama “friendly” toward Israel. An additional 51 percent agreed to a description of Obama’s approach to Israel as “inyani.” According to the Post this word can be translated as matter-of-fact or businesslike but not as fair. And Haaretz’s pollster, Tel Aviv University Prof. Camil Fuchs, called the way the results of the poll were presented by that paper “misleading.”
Thus, the Haaretz poll actually confirms that Obama lacks the standing with Israeli Jews that he likely needs seriously to influence Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. As important, he lacks the standing he likely needs to convince the Israeli public that the U.S. takes the threat Iran poses to Israel seriously enough.
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