Obama gains popularity in poll of Israelis

By Farah Stockman, The Boston Globe – 11 Dec 2009

WASHINGTON – President Obama is not as unpopular in Israel as has been previously reported, according to a new poll released yesterday by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

In August, the Jerusalem Post published poll results indicating that just 4 percent of Israelis consider the Obama administration pro-Israeli – results that have been interpreted as a stunning low-favorability rating. But in the New America poll, which questioned a representative sample of 1,000 Israelis in November, 41 percent of respondents viewed Obama as favorable, while 37 percent said they found him unfavorable – only four points higher than the unfavorability rating of George W. Bush, who is widely considered popular among Israelis.

In the poll, conducted by pollster Jim Gerstein, 52 percent of the Israelis questioned said Obama’s presidency is good for the world, compared with 39 percent who said it is bad. The poll also indicated that 55 percent of the respondents believe Obama is honest and trustworthy, compared with just 36 percent who believe the same of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, Israelis strongly back Netanyahu’s policies on security, with 69 percent approving of the way he is handling that issue.

Since taking office, Obama has pressed Israel to stop building settlements on land he hopes will become a Palestinian state, issuing the sharpest admonishments to the Israeli government since the Carter administration. But his efforts to get the two sides back to the negotiation table have failed.

In the Jerusalem Post poll of 500 people, 51 percent of the Jewish Israelis questioned considered Obama’s administration more pro-Palestinian, while 35 percent viewed it as neutral, and 10 percent declined to answer.

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