US President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The percentage of Israelis who believe US President Barack Obama has either a “positive” or a “neutral” view of Israel has fallen steeply in the two years since his visit to Israel in the spring of 2012, according to a Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies survey released on Tuesday.
Of the respondents, 37 percent said Obama has a “positive” position toward Israel, and an equal number said he had a “negative” attitude toward the country. Another 24% said he was “neutral.”
In 2012, some 51% of the respondents of a similar BESA poll said Obama had “positive” attitudes toward Israel and another 32% believed he was “neutral.”
The telephone survey, released in advance of a BESA conference next week on America’s standing in the world, was conducted from November 16-21 among a proportional sample of 529 adult respondents by Magar Mochot. The poll has a 4.5% margin of error.
According to the survey, 52% of the respondents believe Obama’s policy regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been “bad,” while 50% disapproved of his policies toward Iran and 47% said the same about his policies regarding Islamic State.
Some 65% of the respondents said America’s position in the Middle East has been weakened or seriously weakened since Obama took office in 2009, while 24% believe America’s position has remained unchanged and 11% think it has gotten stronger.
Along with thinking that the US position in the region has been weakened, some 68% believe America’s standing in the region influences Israel’s position. Likewise, 63% believe that if American involvement in the Middle East was reduced, it would have an adverse impact on Israel.
Close relations with the US was ranked second overall among the most important factors for Israel’s security, with Israel’s military power ranked first. Following close relations with the US – in declining order – were the peace agreements with Egypt and Syria and Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley; peace with the Palestinians; and the settlements.
While 62% of the public believes peace with the Palestinians is an important determinant of the country’s security, some 48% say the same thing about the settlements.
Ninety-one percent believe close relations with the US are important.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, Iran was listed after terrorism, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and radical Islam as a significant or very significant threat to Israel’s existential interests. Nevertheless, some 53% of the public believes Israel should attack Iran if diplomatic efforts fail to stop its nuclear pursuit, while 47% are opposed. If the US disapproved of such an attack, the number of Israelis who would support it drops from 53% to 45%, while those who would oppose it if the US objects jumps to 55%.
Nearly 3/4 of the sample believe the US would come to Israel’s aid in the “moment of truth, and a similar number feel the US is a loyal ally of Israel. While 58% attribute US support of Israel to Israel’s role as a strategic partner, another 37% said it was due to the clout of American Jewry. Regarding American Jewry, 79% said they believe US Jews feel close or very close to Israel.
Yael Bloch-Elkon, who co-directed the poll, said it indicates that “despite the fact that Israelis are deeply disconcerted about President Obama’s Middle East policies with regards to Israel-Palestinian affairs, regional uprisings, and Iran – the Israeli public remains one of the most pro-American communities in the world.
Overwhelming majorities view the US and Israel as having similar strategic interests in the Middle East, see the US as Israel’s loyal ally, and as a friend that will come to Israel’s aid in times of trouble.”