Two sets of poll data remind us how unusual is the current relationship between President Obama and the state of Israel. Support for the Jewish state is near all-time highs.
Gallup shows that “Americans’ sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs. 12%. Americans’ partiality for Israel has consistently exceeded 60% since 2010; however, today’s 64% ties the highest Gallup has recorded in a quarter century.” The split between Republicans’ sympathy for Israel (78 percent) and Democrats’ (55 percent) remains vast. (“Palestinians receive the highest sympathy from Democrats, liberals, and postgraduates, but even among these, support tops off at 24%.”)
Meanwhile, a new Israeli polls reports:
38% of respondents said Obama has revealed a hostility towards Israel during his time in office, while a third of respondents said they believe that Obama has been supportive of Israel. 14% said they believe he is indifferent to the Jewish state.
The survey also examined the Israeli public attitude towards the President. 32% responded that they respect Obama but don’t have a favorable opinion of him, 19% had an unfavorable opinion and 17% had a highly unfavorable opinion. 10% responded that they have a favorable opinion of Obama.
This is of course baffling to Israelis who see that an overwhelmingly pro-Israel United States has elected someone they see as hostile to them. (Hey, it is distressing to many conservatives as well, but I have no doubt that 51 percent of voters didn’t support the president because they saw him as hostile to Israel.)
Liberals remain even more confused as to why Israelis don’t like the president. Well, if you select Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, make disparaging remarks about the elected prime minister to the French president, tell Israelis they don’t know what is in their best interests, condemn them for building in their own capital, encourage Palestinian rejectionism by inflating the settlement issue, radiate antipathy toward use of military force even if needed to prevent Iran from going nuclear and give a big speech in Cairo omitting the mention thousands of years of Jewish attachment to the land of Israel and its repeated efforts to offer Palestinians their own country, the vast majority of Israelis aren’t going to like you.
Can one trip solve that? Who knows. But unless the president can establish a better rapport with Israelis and engender more trust from the country’s elected government, the United States will have little influence in restraining Israel from acting unilaterally against Iran or in inducing any “risks for peace.” You see, the Bush administration had it right: Israeli becomes more willing to take risks and to exercise restraint when it has high confidence in the U.S. administration and believes in its collective kishkes that the president has their interests at heart. When they believe the opposite, the reverse will follow.