November 20, 2019

Israelis and Obama: Is it getting better?‎

Three days before the ADL-BESA conference on US-Israel relations (I’m a ‎participant, and will speak on a panel) a new poll commissioned for the ‎conference was released.

The poll has quite a few interesting questions, of ‎which Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post chose to highlight the one on Iran:‎

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…

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It is indeed an interesting number, considering previous polls and their ‎outcomes. If you’re interested in knowing more and understanding Israelis’ ‎ambivalence on this matter, go here. This post, though, is about Israelis and ‎President Obama. Many questions in the new survey contribute some to the ‎understanding of the way Israelis view President Barak Obama, make things a ‎little bit more clear, but not yet clear:‎

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.

The BESA-ADL survey does not include the standard question on presidential ‎ideological or political preferences – whether voters think he is more pro-‎Palestinian, pro-Arab, or more pro-Israel. Such a question is common in surveys ‎tracking American support for Israel (if you’re interested in American public ‎support for Israel, try our Israel Favorability tracker). And it is also a question one ‎can find in many different polls of Israelis being asked about President Obama. ‎The following graph will give you a sense of how Israelis responded to this ‎question between 2008 and September of 2011 (when the last such poll was ‎published):‎


A few comments on this graph:‎

‎1.‎ Israelis, for most of Obama’s (first) term, didn’t trust him. They tended to ‎think he is not Israel’s friend, but rather the friend of the other side, or a ‎neutral president – hardly what Israelis expect an American president to ‎be (whether or not they have the right to such an expectation is another matter).

‎2.‎ The improvement in Obama’s standings with Israelis, recorded in many ‎polls, BESA-ADL included, is also notable here. The second half of ‎Obama’s first term looks somewhat better than the first half. I suspect, ‎though, that this improvement is very fragile.

‎3.‎ According to BESA-ADL, Israelis believe Romney would be better for ‎Israel than Obama. This could still be the situation even if future polls did ‎show that Israelis had come to view Obama as more pro-Israel than they ‎had previously thought.

‎4.‎ If you want to track Obama’s standings with Israelis, our J-Meter is the ‎way to go. Next week, we will be adding another rubric to J Meter, that will ‎include the graph above with all relevant details (the polls, questions etc), ‎and another graph on Israelis and Obama (positive view, negative view). 

Another way of tracking Obama’s standings with Israelis is our survey of ‎experts – the Israel Factor. This week a new Factor will also be added, ‎and I can already tell you that there’s a gap between Israel’s public view ‎of Obama and Israel’s expert view of the president.‎

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