This morning, shortly after President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, a newly released report found that even Israelis—who are thought of as more skeptical of Obama’s peace-making capabilities than most—have a generally favorable view of the president and his promise of bringing greater amity to the globe. The poll, conducted for the nonpartisan New America Foundation by a prominent Democratic pollster, concluded: “Despite repeated media reports touting a ‘4 percent Obama approval rating’ and arguments that the United States has lost the Israeli public’s support for renewed peace efforts, Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view.” A majority of Israelis believe Obama’s election will prove a plus for the world’s problems, according to the study, although slightly less than a majority believe he supports Israel. His 41 percent approval rating may seem a bit soft, but it is higher than his 37 percent disapproval rating. The main takeaway: Israel and Israelis are not as down on Obama as the conventional wisdom believes they are.
The main tension articulated in the poll results, it seems to us, is between Israelis’ apparent lack of a sense of urgency regarding a final-status agreement with the Palestinians and their perception of the American attitude here. Half think an agreement must be reached over the next few years; nearly half think an agreement should take “as long as necessary”; and nearly 60 percent think an agreement will not ever be struck. (Pity the at-least 10 percent who think both an agreement must occur soon and an agreement will occur never.) Yet, the Israelis also perceive the United States’s eagerness to settle the matter in the near future, and therefore worry that in the event that Israel rejects a United States-sponsored final agreement, military and financial repercussions will follow. The one country in the world whose trust and support it cannot afford to lose—65 percent believe the United States is the only powerful country it can count on—also does not know what is best for it, many Israelis fear.
A final note: the poll was done by Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications, and specifically by partner Jim Gerstein. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Tablet Magazine’s Allison Hoffman has profiled him, and because he is a leading pollster for the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street. Expect that group to argue that the numbers confirm that the president’s attempts at tough love toward the Israelis have not fallen as flatly as his critics have alleged. Meanwhile, expect those same critics to contend that even the high numbers are not high enough.
Related: The Pulse-Taker [Tablet Magazine]