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.

When asked whether they saw Obama’s administration as more pro-Israel, more pro- Palestinian or neutral, just 10 percent of Israeli Jews said more pro-Israel, 46% said more pro-Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 10% did not express an opinion.

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The poll of 515 Jewish Israelis, representing a statistical sample of the adult Jewish population, was taken on Monday through Wednesday and 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, the JPost/Smith poll indicates. There was only a 1 percentage point rise in Israelis who consider the US administration headed by Obama to be more pro-Israel than 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 since May 2009. The first poll, which was taken before the first Netanyahu-Obama meeting in the White House and Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo in June 2009, found that 31% considered this presidency more pro- Israel and 14% more pro-Palestinian.

The next poll, taken just one month later, found a huge shift, with the proportion calling the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian rising from 14% to 50% and the proportion calling it more pro-Israel falling 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% in March 2010.

Since then, the latest poll shows, the share who consider this White House more pro-Palestinian fell by 2 percentage points, from 48% to 46%, and those saying it is neutral rose from 30% to 34%.

Respondents who consider themselves right-wing or haredi were more likely to call the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian.

Sixty-eight percent of haredi respondents and 63% of right-wingers gave that response, compared to 46% of the general Jewish population.

Among Likud voters, 52% called the administration more pro-Palestinian and 14% said it was more pro-Israel.

The Jewish Israelis who were mostly likely to respond that the Obama administration was more pro-Israel were those who said they intended to vote for Labor or Meretz in the next election, at 25%, compared to 10% of the general population.

When asked last week by interviewer Levy why he felt Israelis did not believe he had a special connection to their country, Obama blamed it on superficial reasons and ruled out it having anything to do with 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 may have to do with the fact that I have actively reached out to the Muslim community, and I think that sometimes, particularly in the Middle East, there’s the feeling of the friend of my enemy must be my enemy. And the truth of the matter is, is that my outreach to the Muslim community is designed precisely to reduce the antagonism and the dangers posed by a hostile Muslim world to Israel and to the West.”

When Netanyahu was asked why Israelis disliked Obama, in an interview with CBS news anchor Katie Couric last week, Netanyahu said that Israelis did not have all the facts before them like he did.

“Maybe they don’t have the opportunity to have the kind of conversations that I had,” he said. “And maybe they’re not aware also of the ongoing cooperation between Israel and the United States. In the fields of security, intelligence – the fact that the Iron Dome program to protect against missiles is something that has been bolstered by this administration and by this president. We have a common goal to achieve a secure peace. I’m looking forward to working with him to achieve it.”

When Couric followed up by asking why he did not advocate more strongly on Obama’s behalf, Netanyahu replied that he had invited the US president to Israel and that he hoped he would find an appropriate time to come. He predicted that Israelis would start liking Obama “when people get to know him.”

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni this week praised Obama for talking directly to Israelis in the interview with Levy. She blamed the antagonism between Israelis and Obama on Netanyahu, for not taking steps to advance the diplomatic process.

“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 said [in the briefing and the interview] was honest, and I am sure the message reached Israelis, despite what the poll says.”

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