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5 Aug, 2009 06:06

Israelis losing faith in Obama

Six months into his presidency, Barack Obama is finding little trust from Israelis. Recent findings show that many are becoming increasingly suspicious of the US president and his policies on the Middle East.

Shlomo Cohen, a cartoonist, does more than bring a smile to people’s faces. His cartoons carry a political message that mirrors the mood in the country. Currently, the atmosphere in Israel is one of suspicion and mistrust for the American president Barack Obama.

Cohen sees Israel as very distant from Obama. At the heart of Obama’s policy on Israel is what to do with Israeli settlements.

President Obama wants illegal outposts where people are living in caravans to be dismantled, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that, while he agrees, those settlements that have been around for years should be allowed to continue.

For 18 years David Ha’ivri has lived in the heart of the West Bank. He says this is the land of his ancestors and he has no intention of leaving, but Palestinians want him out. They say this land is theirs and now they’re backed by president Obama.

David, however, is not fussed. He is part of a movement that, despite what Obama says, is helping Israeli settlements to grow.

“I’m not aware of any other example in the world where peace is based on the idea that the people who are making peace with cannot live in that same area. If there’s peace then what’s the problem?” Ha’ivri asks.

To some there isn’t peace, and that’s why youngsters like Damien Rozen are taking their frustrations to the internet.

Damien is part of an online group called “Israel against Obama”. He and his friends keep an eye on all of Obama’s speeches and post them.

“He’s trying to force the West Bank over to the Arabs, which I guess is not good because the Torah, which is what Jews believe in, states there that this is the Jews’ land, our God gave the land to the Jews, and he can’t just expect the Jews to give it up willy-nilly,” Rozen says.

It is a point of view shared by most Israelis. When Obama was elected five months ago, professional pollster Tamar Herman asked Israelis what they thought of him. Results showed that they didn’t like him – and five months on this is still the case.

“Obama has this third world image, being the son of a person from Kenya, having learnt in Indonesia, with the Hussein in the middle, this is something that makes him suspicious in the first place in the eyes of the average Israeli,” Herman says.

When asked if they thought Obama would take care of Israeli interests, almost 62% of Israelis polled said no, they didn’t trust him. Only 9% trust him completely, while some 25% don’t trust him at all.

When asked what they thought of his position with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 41% of those polled think he’s more pro-Palestinian. Only 14% believe he’s more pro-Israel. A third of those polled gave a neutral answer.

Unlike his predecessors, Obama is certainly not the Israeli flavour of the month. At times his popularity has dropped into single figures – making him the most disliked American president for years.