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Obama popularity in Israel surges after U.N. speech: poll

President Barack Obama greets supporters during an event at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver
President Barack Obama greets supporters during an event at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - 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 September 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.

The Jerusalem Post said its poll surveyed 506 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Crispian Balmer)

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