What a mensch! President Obama gets top marks from 62 percent of Israeli Jews in a new University of Maryland poll. The survey also found that only about one-third of Israelis think their country benefited from the recent clash in the Gaza Strip.
“Clearly most Israelis are not feeling victorious,” said Shibley Telhami, the lead investigator on the poll released at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center. The poll measures public opinion in Israel about the November war in Gaza.
Only 40 percent of respondents said that they felt Israel “won the combat in the Gaza Strip.” 45 percent said neither Israel nor the Palestinian militants carried the more than week-long conflict, and 11 percent said Hamas came off victorious.
A ceasefire agreement was reached by Israel and Hamas on November 21, capping eight days of violence that left more than 150 Palestinians and 5 Israelis dead. The agreement averted a ground invasion by Israeli troops, but left many tensions between the feuding neighbors unresolved.
Not only were Israelis dour about the way the November clash went, many of them were not optimistic about finding a new way to break the cycle of violence and cease fires. Forty percent of the new poll’s respondents said that they think the conflict between Israel and Gaza simply will not end.
Telhami said that what most surprised him was the relatively small number of Israelis who said they thought that bombs and troops would do the trick in Gaza over the long run. Only a small number of Israelis—15 percent—agreed with the statement that “the fighting between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza” will come to an end through “a major Israeli military campaign.” Even fewer, 12 percent, said the same resolution would be achieved “only if Israel reoccupies Gaza.”
Israelis may not be happy with the way the Gaza conflict turned out, but a majority—fully 60 percent of Israelis overall—say they have a positive view of President Obama, no matter what Republicans said in the recent presidential contest. The 62 percent of Israeli Jews who give Obama a thumbs-up represents an 8 point rise over last year. Not only that, but he’s a role model; Obama was more frequently cited than any other world leader as admired by the Israeli Jews surveyed.
Among all Israelis, Obama came in second behind Angela Merkel, garnering most-admired status from 13 percent of respondents compared to the German chancellor’s 14 percent.
“There are distinct warming trends toward the United States in Israeli opinion and, somewhat surprisingly, toward President Obama,” said Telhami’s co-investigator, Steven Kull.
The survey also found that tempers toward Iran might be cooling, with only one in five Israelis saying they would be OK to strike Iran without support from the United States. Fifty-one percent of Israelis said they think it is very likely that the Islamic Republic will develop nuclear weapons, while 36 percent say that they think it is somewhat likely.
Opposition among Israeli Jews to a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities rose 5 points to 46 percent from a year ago.
The survey measured the opinions of 510 Israeli Jews and 90 Israeli Arabs, and has a 4-point margin of error. About one quarter of the interviews took place on November 21—the eve of a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza—and the rest were conducted on November 24 and 25.