Left laments Obama's image in Israel

Meretz, Peace Now say recent survey of Israeli public indicates failure to realize benefits of policies.

August 30, 2009 00:30
3 minute read.
Left laments Obama's image in Israel

obama waves 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

The Israeli Left reacted with dismay over the weekend to the results of a Jerusalem Post-sponsored Smith Research poll published on Friday that found only 4 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that US President Barack Obama's policies are more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian. The survey, which was featured prominently on Fox News in the United States and picked up by media outlets around the world, reported that 51% of Jewish Israelis considered Obama's administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, 35% called it neutral and 10% declined to express an opinion. The poll of 500 people representing a statistical model of the Jewish Israeli population had a margin of error of 4.5%. Meretz and Peace Now said the survey indicated that Israelis did not yet realize the potential benefits of the regional peace initiative that Obama was advocating, but they expressed confidence that they eventually would. "It is terrific for Israel that there is an American president with vision, and it is a pity that most Israelis don't realize that," Meretz faction chairman MK Ilan Gilon said. "Israelis think that Christian evangelists who rubber-stamp everything Israel does are the only Americans who are pro-Israel. But what is really good for Israel is a solution to the conflict, and Obama is doing what it takes to bring it about." Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said what mattered more at this stage of the peace process was Obama's reputation in the Arab world, and not in Israel. "Despite the results of the poll, the Israeli interest is that Obama will be popular in the Arab world, so he could bring about a peace agreement with Israel," Oppenheimer said. "Bush was popular in Israel and hated around the world, and his policies did not help Israel end the Palestinian conflict or quell the Iranian threat. If he succeeds in his goals of advancing Middle East peace, I am sure he will become much more popular with Israelis." Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, who was excluded from a recent meeting of US Jewish leaders with Obama, issued a press release saying that the poll confirmed a high degree of Israeli concern with and disapproval of the US leader's policies. "It is clear that the Obama administration's relentless pressure upon America's ally Israel to not permit even one additional Jew to move into eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, demanding virtually the unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state that will certainly be a terrorist state antagonistic to Israel, while putting no serious pressure on the Palestinians to arrest terrorists or end incitement against Jews and Israelis, has led most Israelis to now believe that Barack Obama is friend of Arabs and not of the Israelis," Klein said. Chicago-based Palestinian commentator Ray Hanania wrote on the Arabisto Web site that Israelis might have assumed wrongly that Obama would be pro-Israel, because he shared a name with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "[Obama] is not in anyone's back pocket," Hanania wrote. "The Israeli lobby in the United States must be besides itself wondering what the heck is going on. But if being fair, just and dedicated to genuine peace means that 'more' people might think you are not on their side, then maybe that's the price someone in this country should finally pay if the United States is going to continue to insist on being the sole arbiter of the so-far elusive Middle East Peace." The Right questioned how 4% of the Jewish Israeli population could still consider Obama more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian. "Four percent of the public evidently didn't understand the question," said National Union MK Arye Eldad. "If they did, 99.9% would say that he is extremely anti-Israel. The only Israelis who would say he is pro-Israel are those who join Fatah and call for anti-Israel boycotts. "Obama is one of the most antagonistic presidents to Israel ever. I hope he will not succeed in his goal of doing irrevocable damage to Israel and that once again we will be saved by the rejectionism of the Arabs, who always want even more than they have been offered." Likud MK Danny Danon expressed satisfaction that Israelis believed that Obama was not acting in Israel's interests. He said he hoped that the US president's "one-sidedness" would ironically derail the Middle East peace process, because Israelis would urge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reject Obama's pressure. "If at first we thought Obama was omnipotent, we see polls in Israel and in the US that the magic and nice words have finally begun to wear off," Danon said. "Obama's extremism against Israel has united the population from center to Right behind Netanyahu."

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