Nearly three in four Israelis don’t trust President Barack Obama to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, according to a new survey among likely voters who also have an increasingly negative perception of the U.S. President.
The Times of Israel survey was conducted last week amid a growing row between the U.S. and Israel over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress next month, two weeks before the Israeli election.
Asked whether they trust Obama to ensure Iran doesn’t get the bomb, a whopping 72 percent of likely voters in the March 17 Knesset elections said no, compared to 64% a year ago.
Israelis’ current perception of Obama is more negative than it was last year, with more than half of Israelis saying they have an unfavorable view of Obama. The survey found 59 percent of Israeli voters give Obama an unfavorable rating, with 33 percent saying they have a favorable view of him. In the same survey conducted last year, Obama had a 50 percent unfavorable and 33 percent favorable rating.
Stephan Miller, a political consultant who conducted the poll on behavior of the Times of Israel, said Obama’s perception among Israeli viewers has become more ideological, with a drop in favorablity among right-wing voters and a rise in favorability among the left.
Only 20 percent of right-wing voters, who make up 48 percent of likely voters, have a favorable view of Obama, with a 72% an unfavorable view.
The negative perception of Obama could benefit Netanyahu, who has billed the dispute between and him and the U.S. president over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress as a “profound disagreement” with the US over Iran.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud has stressed his strong security credentials and his determination to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as the cornerstone of his campaign.
“To Netanyahu’s chagrin, however, the Iranian threat is simply not the most important issue to voters in this election – a fact that was true ahead of the last elections as well,” Miller said, noting that voters are “overwhelmingly concerned” about economic issues.
When asked to choose the most important issue for the government to address, just 10% of Israelis voters chose the Iranian threat.
“Voters are overwhelmingly concerned about economic issues. The Likud campaign may communicate the Iranian threat as the most important issue, but it will be speaking a different language from the voters,” Miller
Moreover, Netanyahu is at a disadvantage when the issue is framed about the U.S.-Israel relationship.
When asked to name whom they most trust to safeguard the U.S. relationship, fewer than one-third of voters choose Netanyahu. About as many voters choose Netanyahu’s main competitor, Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog (30%) as they do the prime minister.