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Happy New Year? President Obama Sees Dramatic Jump In Poll Of Israeli Citizens

On the heels of his address before the UN general assembly last week, and in the face of strident pushback from opponents in the US, perceptions about President Obama have taken a dramatic turn for the better among Israelis, according to a new poll. While domestic critics savage the President’s Israel policy, 81% of Israelis polled say that his policies are either neutral or pro-Israel. The poll was taken before the announcement of 1,100 new West Bank settlements, which the administration has denounced.

The Jerusalem Post poll found that 54% of Israelis think the President’s policies are pro-Israel, while 27% think those policies are neutral. The latest poll was conducted by a different pollster, so direct comparisons can’t be made, but here’s what the Jerusalem Post says about the last time this question was polled:

The last Smith poll, published on May 27 following a high-profile Obama speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, found that just 12% of Israeli Jews considered the Obama administration’s policies more pro-Israel, 40% said they were more pro- Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 13% did not express an opinion.

While this result isn’t likely to have much of an impact on the President’s strong critics, it might give independents some perspective on the over-the-top rhetoric they’re hearing from the GOP. More importantly, though, the poll suggests that the political will to achieve peace among Israelis is lining up with the administration’s efforts in a way that is somewhat encouraging.

Since this poll was taken, however, Israel has announced the approval of 1,100 new Jewish settlements on the West Bank, a move that the administration has denounced. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We believe that this morning’s announcement by the government of Israel is counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.”

“As you know, we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust including – and perhaps most particularly in – Jerusalem.”

Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the settlements yesterday, during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One:(transcript via email from The White House)

Q Does the White House have any response to the new announcement of 1,000 — or 1,100 settlements in East Jerusalem?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. The administration of the United States government is deeply disappointed by that announcement. We have maintained all along that each side in the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis should take steps that bring them closer to direct negotiations to resolve the issues that stand in the way of Palestinian statehood and a secure Jewish state of Israel.

When either side takes unilateral action, it makes it harder to achieve that. We make our views known, just as we did, obviously, with regard to the Palestinian action at the United Nations.

Q Jay, was that a surprise?

MR. CARNEY: I’d have to refer you to the State Department, but I’d say that we’re disappointed by it.

Q The Palestinians say that this is a direct repudiation to the Quartet statement. Is that the U.S. view?

MR. CARNEY: I would only characterize it the way I have, which is to say that we’re disappointed and that we have called on both sides to take steps that improve the prospects of direct negotiations getting underway because, in the end, the only way forward is through direct negotiations that result in the two-state solution that both sides seek, one that allows for a sovereign Palestinian state and a secure, Jewish state of Israel.

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