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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Israeli Jews by the numbers

A poll released today by the Begin - Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the Anti-Defamation League has been widely discussed in the media. The poll was taken by Maagar Mochot, a well-known polling service here. Limited to Jewish Israelis, the poll focused on attitudes toward an Israeli attack on Iran and the Obama administration.
A vast majority (66%) of Israelis said they would support military action if diplomatic and economic efforts failed to get Iran to stop uranium enrichment, and of that number, 75% would support this action even if the Obama administration were opposed, according to a survey jointly commissioned by Bar-Ilan University's BESA center and the ADL, published on Sunday.

Regarding the US president, most respondents have an overall favorable opinion of Barack Obama, but are skeptical about his Middle East policies; while 60 percent said they had either a "somewhat favorable" or "very favorable" opinion of Obama, and 14% said their attitude toward him was unfavorable, only 32% of the respondents said they approved of Obama's policies toward Israel, and 21% said they disapproved.

Fully 47%, however, had no answer regarding those policies, an indication that people were still forming an opinion.
Just to add to how uncertain Israelis are about Obama, one of the numbers that is constantly focused on in the US is the Rasmussen index, which is the difference between those who are very positive and very negative. The full poll numbers are here, and if you look at them, you will see that Obama's Rasmussen index among Israelis for his policies on Israel is +2, but it's based on small numbers (4% strongly approve and 2% strongly disapprove).

But if you look only at those numbers, you will be missing two key factors. First, the younger people (18-41) are much more 'hawkish' than their elders. And everyone here is feeling a lot less secure.
Gilboa noted that throughout the survey, the younger respondents, aged 18 to 41, were more hawkish in their views than the older ones.

Gilboa said that, counterintuitively, the younger respondents had less trust in Obama and were more in favor of military action against Iran, even against US wishes.

He said this represented a degree of distrust among the youth of politicians and politics as usual, and said the attitude was consistent with the fact that Israeli youth voted more heavily for Israel Beiteinu in the last elections than their elders.


As opposed to the 2007 poll, where 62% of the respondents said that American Jews should feel free to criticize Israel and the government's policies, and 36% said they should not, this time the numbers were reversed, with 35% saying American Jews could criticize Israel, and 52% saying they should not.

Gilboa interpreted this as an indication that Israeli Jews felt less secure about US policies than they did two years ago.

"What the public is saying is that since we don't know much about Obama, and don't trust him, US Jews must be careful about criticizing us," he said.
The numbers on criticizing Israel are not the only numbers that have changed dramatically since a similar poll taken two years ago:
Sixty percent of the respondents said they had a "positive" or "very positive' attitude toward President Obama. However, only 38 percent said they thought his attitude to Israel was friendly - in contrast to 73 percent of respondents in a 2007 poll, who defined the attitude of the previous president, George W. Bush, as friendly.
And perhaps this explains why Israelis are so edgy about Obama:
Asked whether reconciliation with the Arab and Muslim world would come at the expense of Israel's interests, 63 percent said they believed it would; 71 percent, however, said the interests of the United States and Israel were "similar" or "complemented each other."
By the way, 60% of 'younger' respondents also oppose US negotiations with Iran.

Matt Yglesias asks a couple of questions about these poll numbers (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
In policy terms, I think this gets at the point that there are a whole number of ways in which the Obama administration might “oppose” an Israeli attack. Israelis seem willing to go ahead even in the face of a condemnation from Obama. But at the same time they recognize that a good relationship with the United States is very important. Has Obama—or will Obama—send a message that indicates that Israeli strikes would seriously imperil US-Israeli relations? Would such a message be credible even if he did send it?
The answer to that is really simple. If Iran attacks us with nuclear weapons, there may not be much of an Israel left to have relations with the US. You and Obama may be willing to take that chance. Most of us are not. And I don't believe most Americans - unlike the President - are interested in seeing us take that chance either.


At 4:06 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If anything, younger Jews are even more insistent on defending Jewish rights than our generation is. The Palestinians may not see another chance in their lifetime to get what they say they want if they persist in their intransigence. That is is also a message for the Obama Administration: they need to work on changing Arab attitudes and fast. After all, the polls of Israeli Jews don't lie.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger JP said...

"60 percent said they had a ... favorable opinion of Obama"

Good luck with that, Israelis, and screw you. You're too difficult to try to protect. Best of luck.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Joseph Leon said...

I am an Israelite Muslim, yes you heard that right. I believe in Palestinian rights but also recognize that Israelites have a place in the Holy Land. Read more at my blog http://josephleon9.blogspot.com/

At 2:29 PM, Blogger AnechoicRoom said...

Obama is unfit to lead. Period. And when it comes to Iran/Israel? Irrelevant. Utterly. He is so far out of his depth, that all the scrambling will be unable to cover his (and Rahm's) stoopid arses (try as they might to cloak/cloud/misdirect/obfuscate).

Hey you stupid f*ck! Yeah you Mr. President ... lead, follow, or ged da foog outta da way.


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