The fact that Israelis have conflicted attitudes toward US President Barack Obama came out loud and clear in a poll released on Thursday.
The survey – commissioned by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the Bar-Ilan University Center for International Communication and the Anti-Defamation League – found that while 51 percent of Israeli Jews believe Obama is “friendly” or “very friendly” toward Israel, more people think the expected Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, would better promote Israel’s interests.
Asked how they would describe Obama’s attitude toward Israel, 45% of the respondents characterized him as “friendly” and 6% as “very friendly.” Thirty-two percent described the president as “neutral,” 12% as “unfriendly” and 3% as “very unfriendly.”
When detailed questions were asked, a picture emerged of a public that has considerable questions about the president’s Middle East policies.
For instance, when asked whether Romney or Obama would better promote Israel’s interests, 29% said Romney and 22% said Obama. Perhaps most telling was that while Obama had been in office for more than three years, 49% said they did not know or would not answer the question.
Thirty percent of the respondents said US-Israeli ties would improve under a Romney presidency, 26% said they would remain the same and only 6% said they would get worse.
The poll showed that there was not a great deal of concern among Israelis that a second Obama term would significantly change US-Israeli relations.
Asked what Obama’s policies toward Israel would likely be in a second term, 68% said he would maintain the status quo, 8% said relations would improve and 15% said they would get worse.
On the Palestinian issue, 40% said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with Obama’s policies, 19% were either satisfied or very satisfied, and 36% said they were partly satisfied.
A slim three percentage points separated those who believe Obama when he says he is “steadfast on preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons and will use all means available to achieve this goal” (45%) and those who do not believe him (42%), with another 13% either unsure or not willing to respond.
A higher percentage (36%) said they believed Romney would work “more decisively and steadfastly than Obama against the Iranian nuclear weapons program” than those saying he would not (26%).
Among the 66% of the respondents who supported an Israeli military strike against Iran under certain conditions if all else failed to stop Tehran, a huge majority (71% as opposed to 18%) said they would support Israel taking military action even if the US was opposed.
Obama received low marks from the Israeli public regarding his policies vis-à-vis the Arab Spring, with only 18% saying they were correct and 53% saying they were incorrect. Furthermore, while the media are full of stories reporting that US Jewry is moving away from supporting the Jewish state, most of the respondents (60%) believed American Jews were still close to Israel, while 26% believed they were drifting away.
The survey was prepared for a conference on American-Israeli relations to be held Sunday and Monday at the BESA Center. It was conducted by Maagar Mochot between May 28 and June 1 among 540 adult Jewish Israelis. It had a 4.5% margin of error.