Despite criticisms earlier this year about President Obama's position on the Arab-Israeli peace process, his standing among Jewish Israelis is improving, according to a public opinion poll released Wednesday night. Yet, the president still has fewer admirers within the group than past and present world leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
According to the poll, conducted earlier this month in Israel by Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, 54 percent of Jewish Israelis polled said they had a favorable view of President Obama, while 39 percent viewed him unfavorably. That's an improvement from last year, when a majority saw him unfavorably.
Part of the disapproval could be attributed to views about how the current administration has handled U.S. policy in the Middle East. According to the survey, a plurality of Israeli Jews (39 percent) said they were discouraged by the Obama administration's policies; only 22 percent said they were hopeful.
When asked which foreign leader they admired most, Merkel earned the top spot, followed by the late British leader Winston Churchill. Both Clinton and Bush ranked above Obama, who got only 6 percent of the write-in vote.
Opinions among Jewish Israelis differ significantly from those elsewhere in the Middle East. According to another Brookings poll released last week, for example, only 34 percent of people surveyed in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan said they had a positive view of Obama, while 43 percent saw him negatively.
In addition to opinions toward the United States, the survey also asked Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians in Israel about top issues in the region, such as Iran's nuclear program and the "Arab Spring" revolutions.
Though an overwhelming 90 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that an Iranian nuclear weapon is inevitable, 65 percent of them said they prefer a world in which neither Iran nor Israel had any nuclear weapons to a world where both had them. However, they are basically split (43 percent in favor, 41 percent opposed) about whether Israel should attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
When Arabs and Palestinians in Israel were asked about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, nearly half said it would be negative for the Middle East. Even so, a majority (53 percent) believe that Iran has the right to a nuclear program.
Half of Arabs and Palestinians in Israel are hopeful about the Arab Spring revolutions in the region, with 45 percent saying that the United States played the most constructive role. By contrast, a majority (51 percent) of Jews in Israel say that this year's revolutions were mostly negative for their country.