US President Barack Obama 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )
WASHINGTON – Although Israeli Jews might not be the best bet for electoral
college votes in the upcoming US presidential elections, President Barack
Obama’s popularity is on the rise in Israel.
In a survey conducted in
mid-November by Dr. Shibley Telhami, a nonresident senior fellow at the Saban
Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Jews and Arabs alike
expressed concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program, although concern is much
higher among the Israeli population.
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While in 2010, fewer than half of
Israeli Jews polled expressed favorable views of Obama, 54 percent of Israelis
expressed a favorable view of the American president. Thirty- nine percent
expressed negative views, the same percentage that say that they are discouraged
by the administration’s policy in the Middle East.
Despite support for
Obama, only 22% of Israeli Jews said that they are encouraged by the
administration’s Middle East policies. Less than one third (23%) believe that the
Netanyahu government’s policies have a positive effect upon US-Israeli
relations, while 29% believe that their effect is negative.
prioritize policies toward the Arab-Israeli conflict as the number one issue in
assessing American foreign policy, followed by aid to Israel, with policy toward
Iran ranking third. Israeli Jews are almost evenly divided as to whether an
attack should be launched against Iran’s nuclear facilities, with 43% supporting
one and 41% – a dead heat considering the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of
error – opposing one. In contrast, 68% of Arab Israeli citizens oppose such an
attack, and 4% support it.
Although 90% of Israelis believe that Iran
will develop nuclear weapons, the majority – 65% – would rather see a
nonproliferation situation in which neither Iran nor Israel have nuclear weapons
rather than a situation in which both do.
Telhami’s study emphasized that
by a ratio of two to one, Israeli Jews support an agreement that would make the
Middle East a nuclearweapon- free zone, including Iran and Israel, with a system
of full inspections of all facilities where nuclear components are built or
In contrast, only 47% of Arab Israelis believe that Iran is
developing nuclear weapons while 38% believe its nuclear program is
Forty-eight percent, however, are concerned that that a nuclear
Iran would be negative for the Middle East. Only 17% say it would be
While 53% of Arab Israelis say Iran has a right to pursue its
nuclear program and should not be pressured, 32% say it should be pressured to
The poll is being released in conjunction with the eighth annual
Saban Forum, taking place December 2 through December 4 in
The theme of this year’s Saban Forum is “Strategic Challenges
in the New Middle East.”