Israelis feel good about America, increasingly negative on Obama, survey shows

91% believe US would come to Israel’s aid in time of existential crisis; slightly more believe Romney would better promote Israel’s interests than Obama

Despite the decline in President Barack Obama's popularity in Israel, Israelis still feel good about America as an ally (photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Despite the decline in President Barack Obama's popularity in Israel, Israelis still feel good about America as an ally (photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Israelis have an extremely positive attitude toward the United States, believing it to be a very firm ally, but a significantly larger number of Israelis have a negative attitude to US President Barack Obama than they had when last surveyed three years ago, according to a joint poll released Fridayby the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA Center), the Bar-Ilan University Center for International Communication (CIC), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

And more Israelis believe presidential challenger Mitt Romney would do a better job than Obama of promoting Israel’s interests.

Nearly 70 percent of Israelis surveyed expressed a positive attitude to the US, identifying America as a loyal ally. A vast majority of respondents, 91%, believed that if Israel was faced with a true existential threat, the US would come to its aid.

While these numbers are very close to the results of a similar poll conducted in 2009, the Israeli attitude towards Obama has taken a marked downturn since then.

Nearly a quarter of those questioned (23%) expressed a negative attitude towards the president, up from 14% three years ago. And whereas in the 2009 survey, 60% of Israelis described their attitude towards Obama as positive, in the current poll only 38% felt that way. Another 38% described their attitude as “neutral.”

Fifrty-one percent said they consider Obama’s attitude to Israel to be friendly (down from 38 in 2009), 32% neutral (from 33% in 2009) and 15% unfriendly (up from 8% in 2009).

Looking at the possible outcome of the 2012 presidential election, 30 percent of respondents said they thought a Romney presidency would improve US-Israel relations, while 26 percent thought relations would remain the same and 6% that they would get worse.

In a second term, 68% thought Obama would maintain the status quo in relations with Israel, 8% think he would improve ties and 15% that he would worsen them.

Asked who would better promote Israel’s interests, 29% said Romney, 22% Obama and 49% didn’t know.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 55 percent of Israelis are broadly satisfied and 41 percent dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s policies. Some 53 percent of Israelis feel that US policy in response to the “Arab Spring” was not handled properly, and 38 percent feel that US policy in response to the “Arab Spring” has weakened the standing of the US in the Middle East.

When asked about the potential threat posed by Iran, 66% of those surveyed said that in the event that all diplomatic efforts failed, they would support an Israeli strike on the Islamic state. Of those who would support that strike, 71% would support it even if the United States opposed such a strike. Some 45% believe Obama will live up to his commitment to prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons, while 42% do not; on Romney, 36% think he will honor his commitments on thwarting Iran, compared to 26% who do not.

About 60 percent of Israelis believe that American Jews continue to be close to Israel (up from 45 percent in 2009), while 26 percent fear that they are drifting away from Israel. And 61 percent of Israelis say that American Jews have a right to freely and publicly criticize Israel and Israeli policies under some or all circumstances, while 36 percent say they do not.

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said that polls consistently show the broad mutual support between Israelis and Americans, and that the “bedrock of the US-Israel relationship is found in the people of Israel and the people of the United States.” Foxman said that this “mutual reinforcement, based on shared values and interests, explains the historic and lasting alliance between the two countries.”

Foxman referred to this year’s poll as “another affirmation of the strong ties that bind our two countries and the good will felt by many Israelis when asked about their nation’s unshakable alliance with America.”

The poll’s co-director, Dr. Yael Bloch-Elkon of the BESA Center, emphasized that “the survey indicates that despite occasional tensions between leaders, the Israeli public remains one of the most pro-American communities in the world.”

BESA Center director Professor Efraim Inbar, added that the poll “shows Israelis to be apprehensive about some of the policies of the current US administration, while continually optimistic about America and the American people’s friendship for Israel into the future.”

The survey was conducted by the Maagar Mochot polling agency between May 28 and June 1, 2012. 540 adult Jewish Israelis were surveyed. The poll’s margin of error was estimated at 4.5 percent.

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