Shibley Telhami recently released the extraordinary results of a recent poll (see full results) of Israeli public opinion about its country’s nuclear program and Iran’s. The answers to the poll’s questions showed rather amazing level of pragmatism regarding Israeli attitudes on the subject:
1. Israelis were almost equally divided on the issue of whether Israel should attack Iran, 43% favored a strike and 41% opposed.
2. 68% believe Iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons. This statistic isn’t surprising. But given this number the results of the following questions are.
3. 65% believe it is better for neither Israel NOR Iran to have nuclear weapons.
4. 60% favor inspections of all nuclear facilities in the region (including Israel’s) in preparation for a nuclear free zone.
5. 63% would favor all nations in the region (including their own) renouncing nuclear weapons in the context of creating a nuclear free zone.
6. 64% favor the creation of a Mideast nuclear free zone.
A separate poll released by Haaretz indicates that nearly 60% of Israelis believe that an attack on Iran will lead to a regional war involving Hezbollah and Hamas.
Several years ago, I published a post here based on a poll of Israeli public opinion regarding Iran and the numbers were much less hopeful. As I recall, the vast number of respondents supported an Israeli strike on Iran, and agreed that Iran was an existential threat to Israel. Telhami’s numbers indicate that Meir Dagan’s campaign to make Israelis aware of the dangers of an Israeli strike have taken hold and had great effect. Though to be forthright, I also found this 2007 poll result saying Israelis at that time opposed Israel attacking Iran on its own by a wide majority. If both polls are accurate, it could indicate that support for an Israeli attack has actually risen since then.
Telhami’s poll also indicates just how out of sync the Israeli political leadership is with the body politic on this issue. Even before Israel attacks Iran, almost half the population thinks it would be a bad idea. In my experience, the leadership of a country that goes into a war with the citizens already divided on its efficacy is potentially in big trouble.
Most Israelis also disagree with much of the opacity of Israel’s current approach to its own nuclear weapons program. They favor a nuclear free zone, they favor allowing nuclear inspections (Israel has refused to join the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty which provides for such inspections), and they favor abolition of Israel’s arsenal in the context of mutual renunciation of such weapons by all their neighbors.
Israel’s nuclear program is a huge irritant in the overall scheme of Israeli-Arab relations. It is one of the reasons (though not the only one) Iran is pursuing a nuclear program (whether or not its pursuing a nuclear weapon is undetermined). It is one of the greatest hypocrisies of Israel’s own claim of “existential threat” post by that country for having the chutzpah to want what Israel has in such great numbers.
William Burns says
Yet another poll of Israeli Jewish opinion presenting itself as a survey of “Israeli” opinion. Is there any other country in the world where pollsters just eliminate 20% of the population from consideration?
Sorry this poll is fatally flawed. As a twenty year resident of Israel I confirm to you that no significant percentage of Israelis would surrender their nukes for any reason. I don’t have to explain why this poll gets its numbers, but believe me they are dead wrong.
Richard Silverstein says
Sorry, but the academics who conducted this poll & the Dahaf Institute which produced it for them are professionals & what they’ve produced is scientific data. Yr impression is anecdotal & personal at best & hence not scientific. And sorry, but you do have to explain yr claim the poll is “fatally flawed” w. far better than anecdotal “evidence.” Otherwise your data is garbage in/garbage out. And no, I don’t believe you. I only believe you represent yr own personal opinion.
If two-thirds of the Israeli Jews favour a nuclear-free ME, why hasn’t there been any campaigns, demonstrations, etc.?
Psalm 145:20 says it all. Israel, you’re not reading the Torah enough. If the Muslims can memorize the Qu’ran you should at lease be forewarned the the time is coming – but your Massiah isn’t!
As an German citizen I don’t have to make any recommendations to You. But I will not hide my gladness about the results of this poll.
If You are further interested in this issue (nuclear free zone), it might be useful to look at the example of Brazil – Argentina. At first they started to talk bilateral. This was easier to gain some progress than inside the IAEA.