US President Barack Obama’s attempt to portray himself as pro-Israel in a high-profile speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday did not succeed, according to a Smith Research poll sponsored by The Jerusalem Post.

The speech was intended to correct impressions that he was hostile toward Israel, which may have been reinforced by a landmark address about the Middle East that he delivered at the State Department last Thursday, and by a tense press conference at the White House on Friday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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In the AIPAC speech, Obama chose not to specifically rule out the “return” to Israel of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, and did not announce his first visit to Israel as president, as many hoped he would. But he did insist that Israel must remain the Jewish “homeland,” indicating opposition to the Palestinian demand for refugees’ “return, spoke about Jews’ yearning for Israel through the centuries, listed many ways in which his administration was helping Israel and clarified his position on creating a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.

When asked in the poll whether they saw Obama’s administration as more pro-Israel, more pro-Palestinian or neutral, just 12 percent of Israeli Jews surveyed said more pro-Israel, while 40% said more pro-Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 13% did not express an opinion.



Still, the poll found that the gap between Israelis who say the administration is pro-Palestinian and those deeming it pro-Israel has narrowed since previous surveys.

The poll of 600 Jewish Israelis, representing a statistical sample of the adult Jewish population, was taken on Monday and Tuesday and had a 4-percentage point margin of error.

Respondents who defined themselves at the left end of the political map were more likely than others to deem the Obama administration more pro-Israel – 28% compared to 12%. Among Kadima supporters, 37% said the administration was more pro-Palestinian; 19% said it was more pro-Israel.

The respondents most likely to label the Obama administration as more pro- Palestinian were Orthodox Israelis, at 58%, and right-wing respondents, at 53%. Among Likud supporters, 49% said the administration was more pro-Palestinian; 11% said it was more pro-Israel.

The question asked was exactly the same as in five 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 his 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 4%, and rose to 9% in March 2010.

Since then, the share who consider this White House more pro-Israel has risen gradually and slightly, while the percentage saying it is more pro-Palestinian has gradually fallen.

Polls taken in March and July 2010 found that 9% and 10%, respectively, called the administration more pro- Israel; 48% and 46%, respectively, called it more pro-Palestinian.

The gap between Israelis calling the administration more pro-Palestinian and more pro-Israel has fallen from 47% in August 2009 to 28% this week.

Obama fared better in a Dialog poll published by Haaretz on Thursday, which found that a quarter of the public considers him friendly to Israel, while 20% called him hostile and 43% described him as “businesslike.”

The Dialog poll found that 47% of the Israeli public deemed Netanyahu’s trip to Washington a success, while only 10% viewed it as a failure.

Nearly half of the public felt pride at seeing Netanyahu address Congress on Tuesday, while only 5% deemed it a “missed opportunity.”

The proportion of the population expressing satisfaction with Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister rose from 38% in the last Haaretz poll five weeks ago, to 51%.

Other polls also indicated a rise in support for Netanyahu and his Likud Party since his speeches in Washington.

A Telesker poll published in Ma’ariv on Wednesday found that the Likud had strengthened against Kadima. The poll predicted that the Likud would rise from 27 to 30 Knesset seats, while Kadima would fall from 28 to 27.

Asked who was more fit to be prime minister, 36.9% said Netanyahu; 28.3% said Kadima leader Tzipi Livni; 9.2% said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu; 2.6% said Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Independence; and 18.2% answered none of the above.

A Sarid Institute poll broadcast on Channel 2 Tuesday night found that 38% of Israelis found Netanyahu most fit to be prime minister, and 35% Livni. The poll found that the Likud had grown in support at Kadima’s expense.

Since the last poll taken by the institute during a crisis over gas prices, Kadima fell by five seats and Likud rose by four.

The poll found that if an election were held now, Likud would win 34 seats (up seven from the last election in February 2009); and Kadima 29 (up one).

A Geocartographic Institute poll broadcast on Channel 1 Tuesday night predicted that the Likud would win 33 seats, and Kadima 22. According to that survey, 61% of Jewish Israelis oppose Obama’s formula of the 1967 lines with land swaps as a basis for an agreement with the Palestinians, while only 27% favor it.


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