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Is Obama ‘pro-Israeli’? Israelis still say no

by Shmuel Rosner

September 19, 2012 | 6:47 am

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama meeting at the White House, September 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

In our never-ending "what-Israelis-think-of-Obama" (as if it matters) series, we have another new poll to share, and some insight as to Obama’s past and present standing with those never-happy Middle Eastern brats. Like the poll we published last week, the new one also comes from Panels Politics, but this one has a different flavor, for two reasons.

One, it doesn’t ask about Obama, but rather about Prime Minister Netanyahu. And apparently, when asked about the PM, Israelis also aren’t satisfied.
Two, this survey includes the question that is repeatedly asked of Israelis – the question with which one can attempt to follow Obama’s ups and downs in Israel’s shifting public opinion.

We'll start with question number one: Do you think Netanyahu’s handling of the relations with the American administration is proper or improper? Israelis – the same people who see Obama as the main culprit in the fracturing of the relations – don’t give Netanyahu high marks for his actions. Thirty-nine percent approve of his policy, 41% disapprove (20% don’t know). As we’ve seen in previous instances, Israelis are split both by their politics and by their religious observance on US-Israel relations. And this is also the case with the question of Netanyahu’s handling of relations:

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

Religious

60%

23%

Traditional

51%

27%

Secular

24%

57%

Likud voters

79%

8%

Right of Likud

62%

19%

Center-left

12%

71%

Looking at these numbers, two things are obvious:

1. Those disapproving of Netanyahu’s handling of relations are not Netanyahu voters. He shouldn’t care less – politically speaking – about their harsh judgment.

2. The center-left is more anti-Netanyahu than pro-Obama. In the previous poll we published only 41% of the center-left voters chose Obama over Romney (with 35% for Romney). But in this poll we see that when it comes to judging Netanyahu’s rocky relations with Obama, 71% say that Netanyahu isn't handling his job very well.

Let's move on to the second question – the one asking Israelis if they think Obama is “pro-Israeli”, “pro-Palestinian” or “neutral”. This is a problematic question in many ways, but gives one a sense of how Israelis feel about the president. Note: for Israelis to tag an American president as “pro-Palestinian” is like saying that they completely don’t trust him. For them to say he is “neutral” is also not a compliment – most Israelis would like to see the White House occupied by a president who is much more than “neutral”.

Eighty percent of religious Israelis see Obama as “pro-Palestinian”. Sixty-eight percent of Likud voters say he is “pro-Palestinian” and 21% say Obama is “neutral (only 10% of Likud voters think Obama is “pro-Israeli”). Interestingly, Obama does seem more acceptable to center-left voters, but not nearly as acceptable as a popular American president would be. While 40% of Israeli center-left voters say Obama is “pro-Israeli”, 54% think he is either “neutral” (29%) or “pro-Palestinian” (25%). Among secular Israelis, 31% think Obama is “pro-Israeli” while 32% say he is “neutral” and 31% say “pro-Palestinian”.

As the “pro-Israeli” or “pro-Palestinian” question appears repeatedly in several Israeli polls, we’ve been tracking it for quite some time. As you can see here, while Obama’s standing with Israelis has improved since he started his term, the much-improved marks he was getting in September of last year did not survive his recent skirmishes with Israel’s government.

 

How do Israelis view Obama? 

 

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