US President Barack Obama will have to fight an uphill battle in his effort to win over the support of Israelis, according to a Smith Research poll conducted for The Jerusalem Post ahead of the president’s visit to Israel.
Obama has billed his trip, which begins on Wednesday, as “a chance to connect with the Israeli people.” Washington insiders called his visit and the interview he gave Channel 2 a “charm offensive” to improve his image in Israel.
The poll of 500 Israelis representing a sample of the adult population found that 36 percent considered the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, 26% said it was more pro-Israel than pro- Palestinian, and 26% called it neutral. The percentage of people who believed that Obama’s government leaned toward Israel was the highest in Smith polls in nearly four years.
Israelis who voted for right-wing parties were more likely to consider the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian, with 46% saying this and 22% calling it more pro-Israel. Voters of centrist and left-wing parties were more likely to call the administration more pro-Israel.
Among Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Kadima voters, 36% said the administration was more pro-Israel, and 30% said more pro-Palestinian. Thirty-six percent of voters for Labor, Meretz and Arab parties said Obama’s administration was more pro- Israel, twice as many as the 18% who said it was more pro- Palestinian.
Smith Research asked this question in nine Post polls going back to May 2009, shortly after Obama’s first inauguration.
Since then, other pollsters have adopted the question, which is seen as the ultimate bellwether of whether Israelis believe the president is on their side.
The percentage of Israelis who consider Obama’s administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian has fluctuated. It started at 31% in May 2009 but fell to 6% three weeks later, after Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and his first contentious White House meeting with Netanyahu. It hit rock bottom, at 4%, in August 2009.
A Post poll found that 54% of Israelis considered the Obama administration pro- Israel in September 2011 following his effort to prevent the official recognition and creation of a Palestinian state by the United Nations Security Council. But that poll was taken by a different pollster with different methods.
Until the new poll, the highest percentage of Israelis calling the Obama administration more pro-Israel in Smith polls was 24%, in April 2012, when an equal percentage called the administration more pro- Palestinian. In an October 2012 poll, which was the latest poll before the most recent one, 28% said termed it more pro-Palestinian and 18% said more pro-Israel.
Asked whether they believed Obama would succeed in bringing about a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians over the next four years, 80% said no, 11% said yes and 9% said they did not know.
The more dovish Israelis were more likely to answer the question affirmatively. Positive responses were received from 3% of right-wingers, 16% of centrists and 23% of those who voted for left-wing parties.
Much of Obama’s visit is expected to be geared toward reassuring Israelis that he will do everything possible to prevent Iran’s nuclearization. The poll asked Israelis whether they would support an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations if sanctions did not work and the US and Europe refused to attack.
Among the general public, 55% said yes, 27% said no, and 18% did not have an opinion. Support for a strike was higher among right-wingers (76%), than among centrists (36%) and left-wingers (25%). The percentage of people opposing a strike was 48% of centrists and 62% of left-wingers, but just 9% among voters of right-wing parties.
The poll had a margin of error of 4.5%.