By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER , JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENPublished: FEBRUARY 21, 2010 10:34Advertisement
Jewish Israelis are nearly evenly split in their attitudes toward US President Barack Obama, with 40 percent viewing him favorably and 39% viewing him unfavorably, according to a poll released Thursday.The survey also found that significantly larger numbers of Jewish Israelis think the US commander-in-chief doesn't back Israel - with just 36% saying he supports Israel in comparison to 60% who say he doesn't.Still, pollster Jim Gerstein, who conducted the survey on behalf of the progressive New America Foundation think tank, said that the numbers indicate that Obama has much higher approval ratings among the Israeli public than is generally believed.He cited an August Jerusalem Post poll which, asking a somewhat different question, found that only 4% of Israelis considered Obama to be pro-Israel, while 51% considered him pro-Palestinian and 35% considered him neutral. He pointed out that some have incorrectly characterized these results as a 4% "approval rating" for the president."Obama is stronger than has been conveyed," Gerstein said. "It's not that these numbers are strong on their own but in the context of what the narrative has been up until now. He's much stronger when you take into account the priority that Israelis place on the US-Israel relationship."The poll found that the general Israeli public, by a 65 to 31 margin, believes that the US is the only powerful country that Israel can count on in the world today, and majorities fear the loss of American support in the event that Israel rejected a US-sponsored peace plan.Despite a hypothetical request from America not to use force against Teheran, however, 51% of the general Israeli public said the country should attack Iran if it continues with its nuclear weapons program. Forty-one percent opposed such action. Overall, 56% considered Iran an "existential" threat, while 39% felt Iran could not destroy Israel even with nuclear weapons.Of several domestic and international political figures, the Israeli public gives by far the highest favorability rating to former US president Bill Clinton. Jewish Israelis split 62-16 favorable-unfavorable on Clinton, with a 55-24 split on former US president George W. Bush.Some 39% of Jewish Israelis believe Obama to be a Muslim, as do 37% of Arab Israelis, according to the findings.The poll was conducted of 1,000 Israelis between November 8 and 15 with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.
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