US President Barack Obama arrives with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) in Washington September 1, 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not realize he had a friend in the White House for the last eight years. A Jerusalem Post poll of the attitudes of Jewish Israelis to the outgoing president show that two thirds of them didn’t realize that either.
According to a Smith Consulting poll carried out for The Jerusalem Post, 65% of the Jewish public – when asked to characterize the positions of the Obama administration – classified them as “more pro-Palestinian.” Only 12% said Obama was “more pro-Israeli,” another 20% said neutral and 3% did not express an opinion.
These findings mark the biggest gap – 55% – between those saying Obama is pro-Palestinian than those saying he is pro-Israeli in the 12 Post polls that have tracked Israeli attitudes toward Obama since he took office in 2009.
The poll was conducted on January 10 and 11, a little more than a week before Obama was set to leave office on January 20. The survey took place after the anti-settlement vote in the UN that Obama instructed the US to abstain from, and after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s 70-minute speech a few days later in which he blasted the policies of the current government.
The survey was conducted among a representative sample of Jewish Israelis aged 18 and over, and has a +/- 4.5% margin of error.
People on the Right are considerably more likely to see Obama as pro-Palestinian than those on the Left, with 89% of Bayit Yehudi voters making this characterization, as opposed to only 45% of those who belong to the Zionist Union or Meretz feeling the same way.
This figures contrast wildly with attitudes toward President- elect Donald Trump, just a week before he enters office.
According to the poll, when asked whether the incoming administration would be more pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian or neutral, fully 79% expect it to be more pro-Israel and only 3% are expecting it to tilt toward the Palestinians. Another 10% were neutral and 8% had no opinion.
Obama was also thought to be more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian when he first took office, although the gap was nowhere near what it is for Trump.
In May 2009, five months after Obama took office, 31% said he was pro-Israel and 14% said he was pro-Palestinian.
Just three months later – but after his speech in Cairo and a call during a meeting with Netanyahu for a total settlement construction freeze, including in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line – only 4% of the Jewish public thought he was pro-Israel, while 51% called him pro-Palestinian.
In addition to that first poll in May 2009, the only other time that more Jewish Israelis thought Obama was more favorably inclined toward Israel than the Palestinians was in March 2013, immediately after his visit here.
The findings of this survey are consistent with the findings presented on Tuesday in an Israel Democracy Institute poll.
That survey showed that only 22% of the Jewish population felt Obama was “very friendly” or “moderately friendly” toward Israel, while 57% said he was either “moderately” unfriendly toward Israel or not friendly at all. By contrast, 69% predicted that Trump would be friendly toward Israel, and only under 3% said he would likely be either moderately unfriendly or not friendly at all.