Jewish Journal


Israel Factor: The Panel’s Assessment of Obama’s Mideast Policies is Getting Worse

by Shmuel Rosner

September 3, 2013 | 7:51 am

US President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The table doesn’t lie, and, of course, our Israel Factor panel doesn’t lie as well. We gave the panel of experts some rest during the summer, but a minute after Labor Day, a minute before Rosh Hashanah, we finally have some new survey results. With a Middle East in which there was no dull moment this past summer, the questions available to us were limitless, but we decided to use the exact same question we asked back in June as our first question for the panel. This, we believe, can reveal the extent to which this summer's events changed our panelists’ minds.

It seems that the summer did indeed have an effect on our panel. On every Middle East question except one – the one on the advancement of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, where Secretary of State John Kerry has had some measure of success in recent weeks – the panel ranks the Obama administration lower today than it did two and a half months ago. Syria, Egypt, Iran, Turkey – name a problem and the panel will tell you that the Obama administration isn’t doing a great job handling it.

Take a look at the rankings of June and September. Our question was: “Please rank the Obama administration’s policy on the following topics from 1 (terrible policy) to 10 (great policy)”:





Refraining from more intensive intervention in Syria



Trying to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process



Dealing with developments in Egypt and handling its relations with the Egyptian government



Advancing the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons



Handling relations with Turkey




What do we learn from all this?

That the panel isn’t too impressed with the policies (except, possibly, for the Israeli-Palestinian track), but that it also doesn’t think the policies are a disaster. Remember, this is a group ranking, and there are some within the group who are less forgiving and some who are willing to look at Obama’s policies with a more sympathetic eye.

As we do from time to time, we also examined these questions by “party affiliation” (it’s not really party affiliation- we simply divide the group into those who tend to view the Democratic Party more favorably and those who think that the Republican Party is the better one for Israel). When we do this we discover that Obama is still doing reasonably well among those who viewed him favorably to begin with – but not on Syria and Egypt, the two places in which he was really tested this summer (on Syria, for example, he is ranked 5.5 by the full group, and climbs to just 5.75 when we only count the Dem-tilting members of the panel).

The most divisive issue within the panel is Iran where Obama is ranked from 1 to 9 by members of the panel. On Israel-Palestine his lowest rank is 7, and highest is 9 – so there’s not much debate within the group that the Obama policy has yielded progress.

That being said, when we asked the panelists – in the second question (which focused on Kerry) – whether they believe that “Kerry has a good chance to succeed in getting Israel and the Palestinians closer to a peace agreement or even achieving one” they gave this statement a 4.37 (By the way, Dem leaning panelists were more pessimistic about this one than the GOP leaning panelists- Their average answer to this statement was 4). It seems that according to our panel, Kerry is doing a reasonable job but he has very little chance of succeeding.

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