Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poll Shows: Obama Administration Achieves Evenhandedness; Both Israelis and Palestinians Mistrust It

By Barry Rubin

A new poll, conducted jointly by Israeli and Palestinian institutions, shows that President Obama is not too popular with either Israelis or Palestinians. If he presents a peace plan of his own and then tries to pressure both sides into it, that dislike will soar upwards, making implementation of any such program even more impossible.

Just 12 percent of Israelis believe Obama’s policies support their country. Given the strong pro-Americanism in Israel (probably higher than any other country in the world) and the close historic relations between the two countries, this is a stunning (negative) achievement.

But what about the Palestinians, do they accept Obama’s tremendous effort to gain their confidence: the Cairo speech, the criticism of Israel, the—in his own words—opening up some space between Washington and Jerusalem (the capital of Israel, for those who don’t know it)?

No. The same poll found that 64 percent of Palestinians feel that Obama is on Israel’s side. And no matter what he does, it is unlikely to change more in his favor.

This peacemaking stuff isn’t so easy as it seemed, right?

Another interesting result of the poll is that 59 percent of Israelis feel that the Fatah conference’s resolutions show that this organization—which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA)—is not a partner for peace.

While the world media generally reported on the conference as a festival of moderation, Israelis didn’t miss the fact that not a single word was spoken of friendship or sympathy or to indicate any compromise or flexibility toward them. In fact, the meeting has even further set back the chance for progress toward peace.

Neither side has confidence in the current U.S. government as a mediator. The administration has alienated Israelis without gaining the support of Palestinians, or at least the willingness to do anything to help its policies succeed.

In the United States or European capitals, this kind of information—which all of those directly involved are well aware of—is simply not heeded. The idea prevails there that peace can be quickly and easily achieved if only there is the right plan or amount of pressure.

Guess which view is going to prove right.

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