U.S. President Barack Obama’s popularity has risen sharply in Israel after he spoke out forcibly against a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations last week, according to a poll published by the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The poll found 54 percent of Jewish Israelis thought Obama’s policy was favorable to Israel, while 19 percent said it was pro-Palestinian. A survey in May showed 12 percent thought U.S. policy was pro-Israel and 40 percent saw it as pro-Palestinian.
The surge in popularity followed a Sept. 21 speech by Obama at the United Nations in which he rejected a Palestinian quest for statehood recognition and detailed the persecution of the Jewish people through history.
Obama’s U.N. speech was hailed by Israeli politicians of all colors, while Palestinian leaders complained that he had ignored the plight of their people who have been striving for independence for decades.
After taking office in 2009, Obama was criticized by many pro-Israeli groups for being too tough on Israel in his efforts to coerce the two sides back to the negotiating table.
Recent polls in the U.S. media have said his popularity amongst U.S. Jewish voters -- traditionally loyal to the Democratic Party -- has slipped and the Republican party has been swift to brand Obama as anti-Israeli.
Obama won the support of nearly 80 percent of Jewish voters in 2008, and a fall in this support in 2012 could jeopardize his re-election drive in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where Jewish voters are an important swing bloc.
On Tuesday, Obama praised the “unshakeable” bonds between Israel and the United States in remarks marking the start of the Jewish high holy days.
Obama paid homage to U.S.-Israeli ties in a videotaped statement honoring the sacred Jewish holidays -- book-ended by the start of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, next week.
The major Jewish holidays afford “an opportunity to reaffirm our friendships, renew our commitments, and reflect on the values we cherish,” said Obama.
“My administration is doing everything we can to promote prosperity here at home and security and peace throughout the world -- and that includes reaffirming our commitment to the State of Israel,” the U.S. leader said.
“While we cannot know all that the New Year will bring, we do know this: the United States will continue to stand with Israel, because the bond between our two nations is unshakeable,” he added.
Obama noted, however, that “the last year was also one of hardship for people around the world,” including for the people of Israel, who, he said, “face the uncertainties of an unpredictable age.”
He made his remarks with relations between the two allies strained over his call last year for a Palestinian state and Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on construction of settlement housing in the West Bank.
The State Department on Tuesday said the United States was “deeply disappointed” that Israel had approved construction of 1,100 homes in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post said its poll surveyed 506 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.