Israelis Split on Iran Strike

The public is evenly split on forestalling Iranian nuclear weapons development by means of an immediate Israeli preemptive strike.

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"Israel" (top), "Iran" in Persian
"Israel" (top), "Iran" in Persian
Israel News Photo: MFA

A new poll of Israeli attitudes towards Iran found that the public is evenly split on forestalling Iranian nuclear weapons development by means of an immediate Israeli preemptive strike. Of those advocating further diplomacy, 10 percent said that Israel should engage Iran directly.

Results of the survey, commissioned by the Center for Iranian Studies (CIS) at Tel Aviv University, were published on the sidelines of the CIS's annual conference on Iran May 24-25. The polling was conducted earlier this month
A full 81 percent believe that Iran will, in fact, attain a nuclear bomb.
among 509 adult respondents representing all Israeli sectors by the Ma'agar Mochot (Brain Trust) research company.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed expressed support for an immediate Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites, while 49 percent believe that Israel should wait for the results of U.S. engagement with Iran before pursuing alternative paths to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. At the same time, a clear majority of the Israeli public (74 percent), including those advocating a wait-and-see approach, does not believe that American engagement will persuade Iran to change its course. A full 81 percent believe that Iran will, in fact, attain a nuclear bomb.

A further breakdown of the statistics shows that majority support for a preemptive attack on Iran is to be found among male, national-religious and haredi religious Israelis (61, 62 and 60 percent, respectively). A major difference exists between right-wing and left-wing Israelis regarding the appropriate Israeli policy, with 38 percent of those leaning to the left favoring attack, as opposed to 63 percent of those leaning to the right.

CIS Director Professor David Menashri commented on the poll results, observing, "The violent language used by [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and his assertion of wiping Israel from the pages of history, in addition to Iranian advancement of its nuclear and ballistic programs, has created a real concern among Israelis. The Israeli public statements and talk of 'existential threat' used by Israeli leaders to alert the world of its concern could only add to popular anxiety. Still, I think it is important to note that half of the population surveyed still believe a diplomatic venue should be used."

Prof. Menashri noted that he was "sharply criticized" several years ago for suggesting that it would be in Israel's interest to engage Iran. The poll results, he believes, clearly indicate that "the attitude has been changed significantly."

Dr. Uzi Rabi, a senior research fellow at CIS, took the opportunity of the poll's publication to present his own policy recommendations. "Before Israel acts on its own with respect to Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. should put dialogue with Iran to the test. Israel should maintain a low profile and support a U.S. dialogue with Iran that is based on a realistic timetable and concrete goals. Giving dialogue a chance may clarify Iran's intentions and inform the world and the Israeli public in one way or another if there is a possibility for some kind of agreement with Iran. Israel should support dialogue and hope for its success, but it should also quietly prepare itself for the next phases of action."

The CIS poll also attempted to determine if Israeli concerns over Iranian nuclear weapons are sufficient impetus to make Israelis consider emigrating. Seventy percent rejected the idea of emigration even in the shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran. Survey data was insufficient to determine what percentage of the remaining 30 percent of respondents would consider emigrating even without the added threat of Iranian nuclear attack.





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