Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

President Obama Sees Popularity Boost in Israel

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

President Obama Sees Popularity Boost in Israel

Article excerpt

In a new poll in Israel, Mr. Obama earns a favorable rating of 54 percent from Israeli Jews - up an impressive 13 percent compared to last year. Still, he's not as popular as former US presidents Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

If President Obama is looking for some relief from mediocre favorability numbers, he could take solace in a place where he might not have expected to find it - Israel.

In a new poll of Jewish and Arab Israelis, Mr. Obama earns a favorable rating of 54 percent from Israeli Jews - up an impressive 13 percent compared to last year.

By contrast, Obama's job approval rating at home is stuck in the low 40's, according to Real Clear Politics, while just over half of Americans disapprove of the job the president is doing.

The jump in Obama's favorability among Jewish Israelis might seem counterintuitive.

Obama has never wowed Israelis like he did Europeans - in fact while the new US president was riding high in much of the world after his election, only 7 percent of Israelis had a favorable view of him,

More recently, Obama hasn't exactly been bosom buddies with the Israeli leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he specifically called on Israel this year to accept a Palestinian state based largely on pre-1967 borders, an idea that about a third of Israelis reject, according to the poll.

Moreover, Obama has not visited Israel in his three years as president - although he did take in neighboring Egypt in 2009 to deliver his famous Cairo speech.

The Monitor's Weekly News Quiz for Nov. 27-Dec. 2, 2011

But there are also some key reasons Israeli Jews warmed up to Obama this year, some Israel analysts say.

"It's pretty simple, really," says Sam Lewis, a former US ambassador to Israel. "In the first place Obama is spending a lot of time strengthening security arrangements with Israel, and the Israelis know that," he says. "And then he defended them in the UN and he vetoed our own position on the Palestinians" when the president rejected before the UN General Assembly in September the Palestinians' plan for declaring statehood. …

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