Poll: Most Israelis would support Iran strike

Bar-Ilan University study finds Obama popular while 47% remain uncertain about his stand on Israel, ME.

Barack Obama 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barack Obama 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A vast majority (66%) of Israelis said they would support military action if diplomatic and economic efforts failed to get Iran to stop uranium enrichment, and of that number, 75% would support this action even if the Obama administration were opposed, according to a survey jointly commissioned by Bar-Ilan University's BESA center and the ADL, published on Sunday. Regarding the US president, most respondents have an overall favorable opinion of Barack Obama, but are skeptical about his Middle East policies; while 60 percent said they had either a "somewhat favorable" or "very favorable" opinion of Obama, and 14% said their attitude toward him was unfavorable, only 32% of the respondents said they approved of Obama's policies toward Israel, and 21% said they disapproved. Fully 47%, however, had no answer regarding those policies, an indication that people were still forming an opinion. Bar-Ilan University's Eytan Gilboa, a professor of international communications who directed the poll along with BESA director Efraim Inbar, said Israelis were making a distinction between Obama, whom they liked, and his policies toward the region, of which they were more skeptical. While a 60% approval rating for Obama among Israeli Jews is high, it is still significantly below the president's popularity rating among American Jews, where tracking polls conducted through the new president's first 100 days in office showed that 79% of Jews approved of Obama's performance so far. The BESA/ADL poll showed that Israelis were ambivalent about Obama's connection to Israel, with 38% characterizing his attitude toward Israel as "friendly" or "very friendly," 33% as "neutral," and 8% characterizing it as "unfriendly" or "very unfriendly." Gilboa noted that throughout the survey, the younger respondents, aged 18 to 41, were more hawkish in their views than the older ones. Gilboa said that, counterintuitively, the younger respondents had less trust in Obama and were more in favor of military action against Iran, even against US wishes. He said this represented a degree of distrust among the youth of politicians and politics as usual, and said the attitude was consistent with the fact that Israeli youth voted more heavily for Israel Beiteinu in the last elections than their elders, The poll, which was taken in advance of a conference on US-Israel relations to be held at Bar-Ilan University later this week, was very similar to a poll taken two years ago - albeit without reference to Obama - and the earlier poll provided a baseline for comparison. As opposed to the 2007 poll, where 62% of the respondents said that American Jews should feel free to criticize Israel and the government's policies, and 36% said they should not, this time the numbers were reversed, with 35% saying American Jews could criticize Israel, and 52% saying they should not. Gilboa interpreted this as an indication that Israeli Jews felt less secure about US policies than they did two years ago. "What the public is saying is that since we don't know much about Obama, and don't trust him, US Jews must be careful about criticizing us," he said. Among the other findings in the poll were that fully 72% of Israelis had a positive attitude of the US, up eight points from 2007, and 76% believe that the US would come to Israel's aid in a serious crisis involving a threat to Israel's existence, a figure down four percentage points from 2007. Some 49% of the respondents said that US relations with Israel were close because of Israel's role as a strategic partner, 26% attributed the support to the political power of American Jewry, and 15% said it had to do with the democratic tradition and values shared by the two countries. The telephone poll, carried out by Maagar Mochot, was conducted among a representative sample of 610 Jewish Israeli adults aged 18 and above. The poll had a 4.5% margin of error.