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.

Israeli Jews 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 stored.

In contrast, only 47% of Arab Israelis believe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons while 38% believe its nuclear program is peaceful.

Forty-eight percent, however, are concerned that that a nuclear Iran would be negative for the Middle East. Only 17% say it would be positive.

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 stop it.

The poll is being released in conjunction with the eighth annual Saban Forum, taking place December 2 through December 4 in Washington.

The theme of this year’s Saban Forum is “Strategic Challenges in the New Middle East.”

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