Plenty of goodwill between the U.S. and Israel as Obama and Netanyahu meet
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to visit President Obama at the White House on Monday, Americans and Israelis continue to hold each other in high regard. A spring 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that an overwhelming majority of Israelis (83%) have a favorable opinion of the U.S. This represents an 11 percentage point increase since 2011. At the same time, 57% of Americans view Israel positively.
Although Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu has often been described as strained, a majority in Israel (61%) have confidence in the American leader to handle international affairs. Positive assessments of Obama have increased 12 percentage points since 2011, when only 49% of Israelis had confidence in the U.S. president. Views of Obama are comparable to the 57% of Israelis who had confidence in George W. Bush in 2007.
However, Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities offer sharply different assessments of the U.S. and Obama. Nine-in-ten Israeli Jews have a favorable view of the U.S., while 64% have confidence in Obama’s ability to handle international affairs. But only 42% of Israeli Arabs see the U.S. in a positive light and 48% support Obama.
During Netanyahu’s visit, he is expected to discuss concerns about Iran, the Middle East peace process, Syria, and other regional issues. On Iran, American and Israeli public opinion tend to align. Majorities in both countries have a negative opinion of Iran (69% and 92% unfavorable, respectively), and more than nine-in-ten in each country oppose Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons. About two-thirds of those in both countries that oppose Iran obtaining nuclear weapons believe that military action should be taken to prevent their acquisition.
Meanwhile, both Israelis and Americans think that U.S. policies in the Middle East towards Israel and the Palestinians are fair. And about half of Israelis (49%) would like Obama to play a larger role in resolving the longstanding conflict, something Secretary of State John Kerry has spearheaded since taking office.
While American views of Israel are on balance positive (57% favorable), there are partisan and religious differences. Seven-in-ten Republicans have a favorable view of Israel, while a lesser percentage of Democrats (56%) and independents (54%) agree. In terms of religious affiliation, evangelical Protestants show greater support for Israel (73% favorable) compared to Catholics (53%) and the religiously unaffiliated (47%).
Jacob Poushter is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.