New BESA Center/ADL Poll: Attitudes of Israelis Toward the U.S. Remain Strongly Positive
Ramat Gan, Israel, May 4, 2009 … The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA Center) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today released results of a comprehensive poll (.pdf) of Israeli opinions on a number of issues involving U.S.-Israel and Israel-Diaspora relations.
The poll is a follow up to the 2007 BESA Center-ADL survey on these issues.
While Israelis appear to like the new U.S. President personally, they are uncertain about his policy toward Israel and how U.S. involvement in efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will impact on Israel, a significant majority of Israelis are worried that his desired rapprochement with the Arab/Moslem world will come at Israel's expense. Israelis also strongly back stopping Iran's drive to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, even if this means Israel itself has to attack Iran without American approval.
These are among the many findings of a comprehensive public opinion poll conducted in Israel last week by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (The BESA Center) at Bar-Ilan University and the ADL. The poll results were released on the eve of President Obama's first meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The results of this latest poll, taken at a time of significant political transition in the U.S. and Israel, are consistent with what we saw in the 2007 BESA Center-ADL survey and continue to show the strongly held sentiment of Israelis which is a basic ingredient underpinning the longstanding special relationship between America and Israel," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
"Despite a realistic measure of uncertainty that always accompanies major changes, Israelis persist in seeing the U.S. as their closest and most important partner. Likewise, polling of Americans attitudes toward Israel consistently show the American people strongly support Israel and recognize that Israel can be counted on as a strong, loyal U.S. ally. Israel and America continue to benefit from this exceptional alliance," Mr. Foxman said.
Professor Eytan Gilboa of the BESA Center, who directed the new poll, said that "Israelis like Obama as a person, but they also have reservations about his policy and ability to deal effectively with the Middle East. Israeli attitudes may have been influenced by his gestures and actions on controversial issues such as negotiations with Iran and Syria, in the short time since he assumed the presidency."
According to Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the BESA Center, "Israelis fear that President Obama's opening to talks with Iran, Syria and perhaps even Hamas, will be taken as appeasement by these radical actors. They also view his response to North Korean provocations as weak. They want the US to be strong and to act with determination."
The poll serves as background to a broad-ranging international conference on "US-Israeli Relations: Perspectives from Jerusalem and Washington" that the BESA Center and the ADL will jointly convene this Wednesday-Thursday, May 6-7, 2009 at Bar-Ilan University's Feldman Conference Center. The conference is open to the media and public.
Last month, the ADL conducted a similar poll of American Jewish attitudes on Israel, Obama and American policy.
Summary of Key Survey Results
BESA Center/ADL Survey of Israeli Opinion. Prepared for the international conference on "US-Israeli Relations: Perspectives from Jerusalem and Washington," May 6-7, 2009 at the BESA Center. Conducted by the Maagar Mochot polling agency for the BESA Center/ADL between April 23-26, 2009. 610 adult Jewish Israelis were surveyed. Margin of error ±4.5 percent.
On US-Israel Relations
• 68% "agree" and "definitely agree" with the statement that the US is a loyal ally of Israel; 10% disagree.
• 72% describe their attitude, as an Israeli, towards the US, as good or very good; only 3% say their attitude is negative.
• 76% believe that if Israel reaches a point of serious crisis where its very existence is threatened -- a "moment of truth" -- the US will come to Israel's assistance. (In the previous BESA-ADL poll, in 2007, the comparable figure was 80%).
• 49% say that the main reason why the US will continue to maintain close ties with Israel in the future is Israel's critical role as a strategic partner of the US; 26% say the reason is the political role of US Jewry; and 15% say the reason is democratic tradition and shared values.
• 91% believe that close relations between the US and Israel are vital for the security of Israel. (No change from 2007).
• 39% say that US and Israeli interests in the Middle East are similar; 32% say that the two countries have complementary interests; and 23% say they have different regional interests.
On President Obama and his Policies
• 60% of Israelis hold a favorable (54%) or very favorable (6%) opinion of President Obama; 14% hold an unfavorable opinion.
• 38% say that President Obama's attitude towards Israel is friendly; 33% say it is neutral; and 8% consider him unfriendly. (By contrast, President Bush was viewed in 2007 by 73% of the Israeli public as friendly).
• 48% of Israelis believe that the Obama and Netanyahu administrations will maintain the friendly relationship between the two countries; 26% fear that relations will deteriorate and become fraught with tensions; 26% don't know.
• 37% express confidence in Obama's judgment to make the right decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while 37% little or very little confidence.
• 63% believe that Obama's declared intention to bring about reconciliation with the Muslim and Arab worlds in order to improve the United State's position and reputation will come at Israel's expense; 16% say it will not be at Israel's expense; 21% don't know. Among those who expressed a yes/no opinion, 80% feared that the rapprochement would be at Israel's expense.
On Dealing with Iran
• 51% feel that the U.S. should not negotiate with Iran; 32% said the US should enter into direct talks with Iran with no preconditions; 17% don't know.
• 66% of Israelis surveyed believe that if the international diplomatic effort and economic sanctions fail to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel should take military action to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities; 15% oppose; and 19% don't know. About yes/no opinion holders, 81% support military action.
• Among those who would support military action, 75% would do so even if the US opposed such a strike; 15% would not; 10% don't know. Among the yes/no opinion holders, 83% would support action even if the US opposed this.
On American Jewry
• 42% believe that the level of American Jewish support for Israel is sufficient; 28% say the support is insufficient; 21 percent don't know.
• 35% say that American Jews have a right to freely and publicly criticize Israel and Israeli policies, while 52% say they do not. This is very different from the 2007 result, when 62 percent said they have a right to criticize and 36% said no.
• 29% fear that American Jews are drifting away from Israel; 45% believe that they continue to be close.
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