Oct. 21 - The final foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will be closely watched throughout the world but perhaps no more so than in Israel, America's long-term ally in the Middle East. According to new research from the universities of Haifa and Texas, Israelis believe Obama's middle name 'Hussein' makes him seem less supportive of their country, a finding that few observers in the U.S. will find surprising. Jim Drury reports.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS**NONE**~ ==RESENDING WITH CORRECTED HEADLINE== UPSOT: OBAMA GREETS AUDIENCE BY SAYING "MY FELLOW AMERICANS." Despite regularly emphasising his patriotism, Barack Obama still faces questions over his heritage. Some opponents label him a secret Muslim and jump on every public utterance of religious tolerance. SOUNDBITE (English) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country." Intrigued by misinformed perceptions and the polarisation over President Obama's background, researchers at Israel's University of Haifa and the University of Texas have examined the phenomenon, concentrating on one simple fact. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOCTOR ISRAEL WAISMEL-MANOR, GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL THEORY DIVISION, UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA, SAYING: "Ever since Barack Obama decided to run for the presidency there has been a world wide buzz about his middle name." UPSOT: Israeli settler shouting "BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, NO YOU CAN'T." Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii to a black Kenyan father and white American mother. His much discussed birth certificate confirms his full name, but study co-author Dr Israel Waismel-Manor says the name 'Hussein' muddies the waters of public perception. In a controlled experiment groups of Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and Americans watched a clip of Obama speaking. One group's screen was captioned 'President Barack Obama' while the other added his middle name. Participants from each group were then asked their opinion on Obama's Middle Eastern politics and their overall view of him. SOUNDBITE (English) DOCTOR ISRAEL WAISMEL-MANOR, GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL THEORY DIVISION, UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA, SAYING: "What we found is that the people among Israeli Jews that saw Barack Hussein Obama, they thought of him as less likeable. They thought his peace initiative was less fair for the Israelis and overall they thought that his sentiments towards Israelis was lower than the people who saw Barack Obama". Whether fair or not, the results are revealing..particularly in a country where 160,000 Israelis can vote in the US presidential election. In a tight race any lingering bias could be crucial. On Haifa University campus, opinion was mixed. SOUNDBITE (English) DOR EDELIST, STUDENT AT HAIFA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Most of the people are affected by the name since they are completely ignorant of the guy's policies". SOUNDBITE (English) STUDENT AT HAIFA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Barack Obama is a Muslim guy, you can never forget it, his name is Hussein, he will always prefer Muslim over Jewish." SOUNDBITE (English) ESSA MATTAR, STUDENT AT HAIFA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "I don't think that the name matters, his policies are pro-Israeli and that's it". The President demonstrated an ability to laugh at the speculation when opponents demanded proof of his birth in the US. SOUNDBITE (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate.....tonight I am prepared to go a step further. Tonight for the first time, I am releasing my birth video." UPSOT: LAUGHTER By continuing to use humour to defuse questions on his heritage, Obama hopes he'll have the last laugh come election day.