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Americans’ Dislike for Egypt Increases to Twenty-Year High

On the eve of President Obama’s trip to the Middle East, this Gallup favorability poll highlights some of the challenges he will face. Most startling is the fact that Americans’ dislike of Egypt has increased to a twenty year high, with 53 percent holding an unfavorable view. That’s the highest percentage since Gallup starting asking this question in 1991.

In May 2011, Obama promised $1 billion in aid to Egypt. Earlier this month, Secretary Kerry announced the first installment of that aid: a $250 million package for Egypt’s “extreme needs.” Considering Americans’ strong and increasing dislike for Egypt, as well as the deep budget cuts in Washington, Team Obama might have a hard time securing the rest of that aid package. Indeed, it is already coming under severe scrutiny. “Not one penny more to countries that are burning our flag,” Senator Rand Paul said yesterday. Senator Marco Rubio upped the ante by proposing an amendment to a forthcoming budget bill that would impose tight restrictions on further foreign aid.

According to the Gallup poll, Americans are much happier with Israel, which is President Obama’s first stop next week. Sixty-six percent of Americans view Israel favorably. That high number stands in stark contrast to Americans’ opinion of the Palestinian Authority, which almost 8 in 10 view unfavorably. It’s little wonder that Obama tempered hopes that the US would help restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on this trip.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Obama is Iran. As Obama himself said today, Tehran is just “over a year or so” away from building a nuclear bomb. According to Gallup, Iran is disliked by almost 9 in 10 Americans, which puts it alongside North Korea and Pakistan at the lowest level in the favorability ranking.

The stark contrast in views, between Israel on the one hand and the Palestinians and Iran on the other, underscores the difficulties Obama will face in this turbulent region. Indeed, with Syria disintegrating and its civil war bleeding into neighboring countries, with Iran resolutely marching toward the bomb, and with turmoil in the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula, it seems Team Obama severely “misunderestimated” its ability to pivot away from this troubled region and focus on Asia and domestic affairs.

The President may wish he was done with the Middle East, but it isn’t done with him.

[Photograph: Getty Images. President Obama with Hosni Mubarak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House in 2010.]

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