US President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to the people of Israel last
week – when he hosted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a positive meeting
at the White House and gave his first interview as president to an Israeli
television station – were not very successful, according to a Smith Research
poll for The Jerusalem Post.
whether they saw Obama’s administration as more pro-Israel, more pro-
Palestinian or neutral, just 10 percent of Israeli Jews said more
46% said more pro-Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 10% did not express
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The poll of 515 Jewish Israelis, representing a statistical
sample of the adult Jewish population, was taken on Monday through
had a 4.4 percentage point margin of error.
After Obama’s earlier meetings with
Netanyahu were portrayed as adversarial, Obama made a point of treating the
prime minister with the utmost respect last week, accompanying him to his car
and constantly commending him in particular and Israelis in general during his
press conference with Netanyahu on Tuesday, and his interview with Channel 2
anchor Yonit Levy two days later.
But what was widely described as a
“charm offensive” did not immediately sway many Israelis in his favor,
JPost/Smith poll indicates. There was only a 1 percentage point rise in
who consider the US administration headed by Obama to be more pro-Israel
pro-Palestinian since the last such poll was taken in March.
The question asked was
exactly the same as in four previous polls sponsored by this newspaper
2009. The first poll, which was taken before the first Netanyahu-Obama
in the White House and Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo in June 2009,
31% considered this presidency more pro- Israel and 14% more
The next poll, taken just one month later, found a huge
shift, with the proportion calling the Obama administration more
rising from 14% to 50% and the proportion calling it more pro-Israel
from 31% to only 6%.
Those calling the Obama presidency more pro-Israel
than pro-Palestinian fell in August 2009 to a nadir of 4% and rose to 9%
Since then, the latest poll shows, the share who consider
this White House more pro-Palestinian fell by 2 percentage points, from
46%, and those saying it is neutral rose from 30% to 34%.
consider themselves right-wing or haredi were more likely to call the
administration more pro-Palestinian.
Sixty-eight percent of haredi
respondents and 63% of right-wingers gave that response, compared to 46%
general Jewish population.
Among Likud voters, 52% called the
administration more pro-Palestinian and 14% said it was more
The Jewish Israelis who were mostly likely to respond that
the Obama administration was more pro-Israel were those who said they
to vote for Labor or Meretz in the next election, at 25%, compared to
10% of the
When asked last week by interviewer Levy why he felt
Israelis did not believe he had a special connection to their country,
blamed it on superficial reasons and ruled out it having anything to do
policies or his behavior.
“Some of it may just be the fact that my middle
name is Hussein, and that creates suspicion,” Obama said. “Some of it
to do with the fact that I have actively reached out to the Muslim
and I think that sometimes, particularly in the Middle East, there’s the
of the friend of my enemy must be my enemy. And the truth of the matter
that my outreach to the Muslim community is designed precisely to reduce
antagonism and the dangers posed by a hostile Muslim world to Israel and
When Netanyahu was asked why Israelis disliked Obama, in an
interview with CBS news anchor Katie Couric last week, Netanyahu said
Israelis did not have all the facts before them like he did.
don’t have the opportunity to have the kind of conversations that I
said. “And maybe they’re not aware also of the ongoing cooperation
Israel and the United States. In the fields of security, intelligence –
that the Iron Dome program to protect against missiles is something that
been bolstered by this administration and by this president. We have a
goal to achieve a secure peace. I’m looking forward to working with him
When Couric followed up by asking why he did not advocate
more strongly on Obama’s behalf, Netanyahu replied that he had invited
president to Israel and that he hoped he would find an appropriate time
He predicted that Israelis would start liking Obama “when people get to
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni this week praised Obama for talking
directly to Israelis in the interview with Levy. She blamed the
between Israelis and Obama on Netanyahu, for not taking steps to advance
“What has to happen is progress on essential matters,
not just a nice photo-op,” Livni told The
Jerusalem Post, in her first comments
on the meeting. “The US and Israel have the same interests. What Obama
the briefing and the interview] was honest, and I am sure the message
Israelis, despite what the poll says.”