Low marks for Obama on Gaza conflict


Only a third of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, according to a new poll.

Half of the respondents to the CBS News poll say they disapprove of how the White House has handled the renewed violence in Gaza, which has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

Just 56 percent of Democrats say they approve of the president’s approach toward the conflict; 71 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents disapprove.

On Tuesday, Hamas and the Israelis agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire to allow negotiators in Egypt a chance to hold broader peace talks. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. “certainly supports” the development and was hopeful it could lead to a broader peace deal.

“We have noted for some time that an immediate cease-fire was critical to bringing about the kind of calm in which negotiations could occur,” Earnest said.

But the violence has strained the White House’s relationship with Israeli leaders, with top Obama advisers vocally criticizing Israel after the bombing of a United Nations refugee site in Gaza over the weekend. Israeli media has also reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been frustrated with the U.S. insistence on a cease-fire agreement.

Earlier this week, Earnest said that while the "United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself" against rocket attacks, the White House also called on Israeli authorities "to take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and protect the civilian Palestinian population from the effects of attacks, and we continue to stress that all parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law."

The CBS News poll showed more Americans blamed Hamas than Israel for the outbreak in violence. A third said Hamas was mostly to blame; just 6 percent pointed the finger at Israel. Some 47 percent said both sides are equally culpable.

Overall, the president continues to struggle with a low job approval rating. Half of all Americans disapprove of the job he’s doing; just 41 percent say they think Obama is handling his responsibilities well.