Poll: Most Israeli Jews don’t trust Obama to safeguard country’s interests

Ahead of visit, 62% of Israelis say US president is incapable of bringing about a breakthrough in peace talks

Barack Obama speaks to Benjamin Netanyahu outside the White House in 2011. (Pete Souza/White House)
Barack Obama speaks to Benjamin Netanyahu outside the White House in 2011. (Pete Souza/White House)

Most Israeli Jews don’t trust that US President Barack Obama has Israel’s interests at heart, a poll released Monday revealed.

According to the survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University ahead of the US president’s arrival Wednesday, 53.5% percent of Jewish respondents said they either “don’t trust him so much” (40%) or “don’t trust him at all” (13.5%) to consider and safeguard their country’s interests.

The numbers among the general population are slightly more favorable to the president, due to the fact that 79% of Arab respondents said they do trust Obama.

A slim majority of Israelis (51.5%) see Obama as balanced in his attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians, but 23% claim he’s more pro-Palestinian compared to 18% who say he’s more pro-Israel. Fifty-one percent of respondents described Obama’s manner toward Israel as “neutral or business-like,” while 11% said they view him as hostile to the country.

The survey found that though a large majority of the general population believes Israel should hold peace talks with the Palestinians (74.3%), only 36% think it will lead to an agreement in the coming years.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they didn’t believe Obama would have come unless it was agreed beforehand that his visit would yield a softening of positions, on both sides, but 62% said they didn’t believe he had the ability to bring about a breakthrough.

Those most skeptical about the chance of a breakthrough under the American president’s leadership were the youngest voters. Twenty-nine percent of 18-29 year olds said he could not do it, with the percentage of believers increasing slightly with age: 30-44 — 38%; 45-54 — 38%; 55-64 –41%; and 65+ — 44%.

Asked whether Israel should show more flexibility to help Obama put the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back on track, 56.1% of the respondents said yes.

The survey, conducted last week, included 600 respondents who constitute a representative sample of the adult population of Israel. The sample of error was 4.5%.

The research comes on the heels of an ABC/Washington Post poll which found that seven in 10 Americans would prefer to leave peace negotiations to the Israelis and Palestinians rather than see the US take a lead role in trying to resolve the conflict.

According to that survey, while 55% of Americans sympathize with Israel — versus 9% who support the Palestinians — the majority of Americans would like to let the main protagonists in the conflict come to an agreement without the US at the helm.

Another survey of US attitudes toward Israelis and Palestinians showed that Americans’ sympathy for Israel is at a 22-year high. The poll, conducted by Gallup, was released Friday.

In figures gleaned from the polling organization’s early February World Affairs poll, 64 percent of Americans said their sympathies “in the Middle East situation” – Gallup’s term for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace talks – lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Just 12% favor the Palestinians.

Nearly one-quarter, or 23%, said their sympathies lie with both parties, neither, or had no opinion.

The last Gallup poll that showed 64% sympathy came in 1991, at the height of the First Gulf War and in the midst of the first intifada.

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