Wednesday, October 08, 2008

So What Do Israelis Really Think Of Obama?

At this point--who knows?
If you like, you can go according to the video from Israelis4Obama:

Then again, there is Willy Stern who made the rounds in Israel for The Weekly Standard and came to the conclusion that: "One thing Israelis and Palestinians can agree on is that Obama is bad news."

Palestinians think that Obama is bad news? The going theory is that Palestinian Arabs think that Obama is good for the Palestinians...
To test the theory, I go to see Ramallah's top pollster, Khalil Shikaki. He has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, writes op-eds for the New York Times and Washington Post, and has taught at Brandeis. Shikaki runs the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research out of his office in a well-appointed building atop a Subaru dealership. The building wouldn't be out of place in downtown Tulsa. He has recent polling data on Obama. A late August survey indicated that a scant 9.9 percent of Palestinians thought an Obama presidency would have a "positive effect" on the Palestinian question. Apparently, the "audacity of hope" mantra doesn't fly in Arabic.

Shikaki said he hadn't expected "such a large percentage of negative results" for Obama. He supposes that Palestinians--whether they are Fatah supporters in the West Bank or Hamas supporters in Gaza--think both American candidates are heavily biased in favor of Israel and therefore equally bad.[emphasis added]
Well, if the Arabs are not falling head over heels for Obama, surely Israeli Jews are--you did watch that video above, didn't you? According to Gallup, Obama gets about 66% of the American Jewish vote.
In Israel, though, it's an entirely different matter. "Israel is the only place on the globe in which the public genuinely likes the Bush administration," notes Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general who studies national security issues at Tel Aviv University's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies. "McCain is widely seen as an extension of Bush by the Israeli electorate." No one should be surprised that Obama trailed McCain 38 percent to 31 percent in a late July poll of Jewish Israelis. (In May, McCain was up 43 percent to 20 percent over Obama.)

"We respect war heroes in Israel, especially those like McCain who were POWs," notes Mitchell Barak, managing director of the Jerusalem-based Keevoon Research, Strategy & Communications. "We see Obama fantasizing about how he wants to sit down and talk to the terrorists, and he loses a lot of Israelis right there. He comes off as unrealistic and insensitive to the existential challenges facing the Jewish state, and as naïve."

Naïve, indeed. It's a theme that popped up frequently when I mentioned Obama's name. Obama lacks experience. Obama doesn't understand how to deal with terrorists in general, and radical Islamic terrorists in particular. Obama thinks a court of law is the right forum for dealing with terrorists. Obama thinks the U.N. is a dandy place to solve difficult problems. Obama would have happily lost the Iraq war. Obama would cede regional hegemony to the Iranians. And so on.

Most Israelis, who live daily with the threat of terrorism, simply don't trust Obama.
According to Stern, not only is McCain preferred by Israelis over Obama, this preference transcends party affiliation:
The leaders of all three of Israel's major political parties--Labor, Kadima, and Likud--prefer McCain but they don't dare say so publicly, reports chain-smoking political consultant Eyal Arad. Why not? Because, explains Arad, they know they might have to deal with Obama for the next four years. "Israelis fear the unknown and Obama represents the unknown," explains Saul Singer, longtime editorial page editor of the Jerusalem Post, now on book leave.
This is all pretty irrelevant to the election back in the US of course--unless you are considering the absentee vote of Americans living in Israel. Apparently the absentee vote of the military is not the only one that is expected to vote for McCain:
Expat Americans in Israel are also largely right-leaning. Kory Bardash, a former Goldman Sachs analyst who is now chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, predicts that McCain will get more than 75 percent of the vote among Americans living in Israel. He wants it to have an impact, too. Bardash is specifically targeting absentee voters who are registered back home in the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
In the end, no one knows how much the Jewish vote is going to matter altogether. However, what an Obama presidency will do is naturally of interest to Jews both in the US and in Israel. And the impression Stern gives is that if Obama wins, Israeli leaders will be more wary.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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