Poll finds massive drop in Israelis’ approval of Obama

Less than half of Israelis think US president doing a good job, compared to 71% last year; 80% disapprove of his Iran policy

Illustrative -- US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
Illustrative -- US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Israelis have increasingly lost faith in US President Barack Obama, with the commander-in-chief taking a greater hit to his image in the Jewish state than in any other country in the world, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Confidence in Obama slipped in Israel from 71% in 2014 to 49% in 2015, while half of Israelis said they have no confidence in the president’s leadership in international affairs, according to the 2015 Spring Pew Global Attitudes Survey.

The findings reverse a several-year trend of rising support for Obama in Israel, amid increasingly cool relations between the two states over US foreign policy in the Middle East and tensions between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran’s nuclear program.

According to the survey, which spoke to 1,000 people in the country during April and May, 80% of Israelis disapprove of how Obama is dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Among those who identify with Netanyahu’s Likud party, just 40% have confidence in Obama’s role in global affairs.

By comparison, Americans surveyed were slightly more lukewarm about their president, with 58% saying they have confidence in his role on the global stage.

A similar survey of world opinion on Obama in 2014 found 71% in Israel approving of his work, a 10 point jump over 2013.

In 2011, the previous year Israelis were surveyed on Obama, the president’s approval rating was also 49%.

Obama’s dour image in the Jewish state didn’t affect America’s standing in Israel, with a firm majority of Israelis still enamored of Uncle Sam.

Eighty-one percent of Israelis view the US in a favorable light, compared to 18% unfavorable — one of the highest favorable ratings of all countries quizzed — although there is a wide gap between Israeli Jews (87% favorable) and Arabs (48%).

The number was a slight downturn from 2014, when the US garnered an 84% approval rating in Israel.

By contrast, America’s image is mostly negative in the region, with most Jordanians (83%), Palestinians (70%), Turks (58%) and Lebanese (58%) giving the US a thumbs down.

Additionally, 82% of Palestinians had no confidence in Obama’s foreign policy.

The survey found that 84% of Israelis support the strikes against the Islamic State — including 87% of Jews and 69% of Arabs — although 55% believe that the US has mishandled the advance of the jihadi group.

Across the Middle East, Israelis have the highest approval for US interrogation methods (56%), and the lowest disapproval ratings (18%) for those methods of all countries polled — far below the world median (50% disapprove) and even the US, where 37% disapprove of American interrogation techniques.

One thousand Israelis — 60% Jews and 40% Arabs — were interviewed for the poll in face-to-face interviews conducted in Arabic and Hebrew, although the results were weighted to reflect ethnic and religious distributions.

The interviews were conducted during April and May this year, and the results contain a 4.3 percent margin of error.

Amid China’s rising dominance on the global stage, 56% of Israelis believe Beijing will overtake the US as the world’s superpower at some point or has already.

Israelis were largely split on how they viewed China, with 55% giving Beijing a favorable rating, compared to to 42% unfavorable. Eighty-five percent of Israeli Arabs were found to have favorable views, compared with 49% of Israeli Jews.

Additionally, 64% of Israelis believe China ignores the human rights of its people, although Israeli Arabs (54%) are much more supportive of Beijing’s rights record than are Israeli Jews (20%).

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