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Americans unhappy with Obama’s treatment of Israel, supportive of Iran deal

Poll finds 50-38% disapproval of president’s Israel policies; while majority support accord, they’re not confident it will keep Tehran from the bomb

US President Barack Obama (left) walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2011. (Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)
US President Barack Obama (left) walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2011. (Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)

Americans widely disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of ties with Israel, but aren’t too happy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of relations either, a poll found Monday.

As negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program entered their final scheduled 24 hours, the Washington Post-ABC News survey also showed that while 59 percent of Americans support easing economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for some restrictions on the project, the same proportion also believe that a deal will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The poll — carried out among 1,003 adults across the US from March 26-29 — also underlined divisions in the US public over the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Asked if they would back an emerging pact with Iran that would lift major economic sanctions, while making it more difficult for the country to produce nuclear weapons, 59% of respondents backed it, while 31% said they would oppose such a move. Yet despite the overwhelming support for an Iran agreement, 59% of participants were not confident that a negotiated accord would prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, while 37% maintained that a deal will keep Iran nuke-free.

From left to right: US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel March 29, 2015 in Lausanne. (photo credit: AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI)
From left to right: US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond wait for a P5+1 meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel March 29, 2015 in Lausanne. (photo credit: AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI)

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that the chances for an agreement remain 50-50, and that the US will leave all options on the table — include non-diplomatic measures.

Israel is vehemently opposed to the accord in its current reported form, and Netanyahu has claimed that a “bad deal” will pave Iran’s way to the bomb while enabling the Islamic Republic to restart its economy.

In a bid to convince American lawmakers to oppose an agreement that would leave Iran with the ability to enrich military grade uranium, Netanyahu spoke before Congress March 3, two weeks before Israeli elections — in a move that was panned by the White House and some Democratic senators and Congress members.

Asked whether they favor Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral relations between Israel the United States, 37% said they approve of his conduct, while 44% believe that he has mishandled ties. Obama received more polarized figures in the survey, with 38% of respondents approving of US foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel while 50% disapproved.

When asked whether they support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 39% said yes, 36% opposed it, while 25% offered no opinion. The question comes amid increased friction between Obama and Netanyahu over the prime minister’s remarks during the election campaign that no Palestinian state would be established under his leadership. Netanyahu later retracted his remarks, but the White House rejected the backtracking, maintaining that it would have to reevaluate its policies in light of the prime minister’s remarks, and not ruling out backing UN efforts for a peace accord.

Of those surveyed in the poll, 30% considered themselves Democrats, 22% aligned themselves with the Republican party, 38% said they were Independent, while 10% posted no political affiliation or listed their political affiliation as “other.”

The margin of error stood at +-3.5 percentage points.

The six major world powers — known as the P5+1 — are racing toward a framework nuclear deal with Iran by a Tuesday midnight deadline.

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