'Poll proves Obama must change stance'

Likud ministers say 'Post' poll shows that US president must reconsider his approach to Israel.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
June 21, 2009 00:29
2 minute read.

rivlin 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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US President Barack Obama will have to shift his Middle East policies in Israel's favor if he hopes to be an honest broker who could mediate in the region, Likud ministers and MKs said Saturday night in reaction to a Jerusalem Post-sponsored poll published in Friday's newspaper. The Smith Research poll of 500 people representing a statistical model of the Israeli population found that only six percent of Jewish Israelis consider the views of Obama's administration pro-Israel. Fifty percent of those sampled consider the administration's policies more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, and 36% said the policies were neutral. The remaining eight percent did not express an opinion. The numbers were a stark contrast to the last poll published May 17, on the eve of the meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled Obama pro-Israel, 14% considered him pro-Palestinian and 40% said he was neutral. The other 15% declined to give an opinion for the poll, which also had a 4.5% margin of error. "Even if it was not Barack Obama's intention to be anti-Israel, he cannot argue with this perception in Israel," a Likud minister said. "He will have to take steps now to prove that America is still a true friend and an honest broker." Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Obama had a new agenda of reaching out to the Arab and Muslim worlds and sees America's interests in the region different than his predecessors, but he still hoped Obama would restore America's previous pro-Israel policies. "He's not pro-Israel, that's obvious," Rivlin said. "He's changing the American government's positions and attitudes. Yet America is still the best friend we have, and we can only hope that they change back." Left-wing ministers and MKs defended Obama and suggested that the people of Israel were either mistaken, misunderstood the American president, or were led astray by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "America will continue to be our friend and honest broker," said Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog of Labor, who has good ties in Washington. "There has just been a misunderstanding. The Obama administration is still friendly and promoting an important regional peace approach. We shouldn't give them grades." Opposition leader Tzipi Livni told an audience at the Open University on Friday that "the new American administration would not be a threat to Israel if there was an administration here that knew how to promote Israel's interests properly." When Meretz leader Haim Oron was told the poll results, he responded: "I'm sorry that people feel that way. Obama's policies are in the best interests of Israel and I hope Israelis will eventually understand that."

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