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New poll finds Israelis more positive on Obama

Israelis aren’t nearly as unsupportive of President Obama and America’s role in the Middle East peace process as most news reports would have you believe, according to a new survey being released today by the New America Foundation. (Raw poll results here, analysis here.) Overall, 52 percent of the 1,000 Israelis surveyed thought Obama’s election ...

575702_091210_netanyahu2.jpg
575702_091210_netanyahu2.jpg

Israelis aren't nearly as unsupportive of President Obama and America's role in the Middle East peace process as most news reports would have you believe, according to a new survey being released today by the New America Foundation. (Raw poll results here, analysis here.)

Overall, 52 percent of the 1,000 Israelis surveyed thought Obama's election would be good for the problems facing the world and 42 percent responded that they think he supports Israel. That's significantly higher than the number most often cited, that just 4 percent of Israelis view Obama's policies as "pro-Israel," a reference to an August poll conducted by the Jerusalem Post. Still, a majority of those polled in the New America Foundation survey -- 55 percent -- said they did not see Obama as supporting the Jewish state.

Israelis aren’t nearly as unsupportive of President Obama and America’s role in the Middle East peace process as most news reports would have you believe, according to a new survey being released today by the New America Foundation. (Raw poll results here, analysis here.)

Overall, 52 percent of the 1,000 Israelis surveyed thought Obama’s election would be good for the problems facing the world and 42 percent responded that they think he supports Israel. That’s significantly higher than the number most often cited, that just 4 percent of Israelis view Obama’s policies as “pro-Israel,” a reference to an August poll conducted by the Jerusalem Post. Still, a majority of those polled in the New America Foundation survey — 55 percent — said they did not see Obama as supporting the Jewish state.

The Israelis polled also gave their own prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, very high marks on security-related matters, leading the poll’s organizers to conclude that Israelis would be amenable to supporting a peace process or agreement if Netanyahu were willing to get behind it.

“Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama, and there is solid backing for an American-sponsored final status agreement along the lines of where the parties left off nine years ago at Taba and in the recent Olmert-Abbas negotiations,” wrote Jim Gerstein, founding partner at Gerstein Agne Strategic Communications, which helped conduct the survey.

“The survey also shows that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a great deal of political space to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians, including within his own Likud party.”

Sixty-five percent of Israelis surveyed said they believed that the United States was “an absolutely necessary ally,” and 56 percent gave the U.S. a “favorable” rating. Overall, they gave Obama a 41 percent favorable rating, as well as a 37 percent unfavorable rating.

The New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force, which commissioned the survey, is holding an event Thursday morning to discuss the report, with participants including Gerstein, National Security Network Executive Director Heather Hurlburt, Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton, Israel TV10’s Gil Tamari, New America Foundation Middle East Task Force Co-Directors Amjad Atallah and Daniel Levy, Middle East expert Stephen Cohen, Aspen Institute Director Toni Verstandig, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Brian Katulis, and Brookings Saban Center Fellow Shibley Telhami.

Polling for the survey was conducted from Nov. 8-15, 2009, in Israel; at the time of release, no information was available about the margin of error or the poll’s methodology.

Steve Clemons, the head of foreign-policy programs at New America, will be live-streaming the event on his website, The Washington Note. He told The Cable that strongly favorable views of Netanyahu and reasonably positive views of Obama found in the survey show there is an appetite in Israel for serious negotiations with Palestinians.

“The Arabs vs. Israel, Obama vs. Netanyahu binary narrative that is presented in much of the media doesn’t seem to exist in the minds of a majority of Israelis,” said Clemons, “and this may give those in Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah something to work with.”

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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