The number of Israelis who oppose a military attack against Iran has risen modestly since last year, according to the Anwar Sadat Chair’s annual survey of Israeli public opinion released today at the Brookings Institution.
While 51-percent of Israeli respondents said they think it’s “very likely” that “Iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons” (54-percent of Israeli Jews think it’s “very likely”, down from 62-percent last year), an overall 50-percent of Israelis oppose an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program. The number of Israeli Jews who oppose unilateral Israeli action has also increased — 46-percent compared to 41-percent last year. A slightly greater number of Israelis say Israel should only strike Iran with US support — 43-percent compared to 42-percent who answered in February, and 46-percent of Israeli Jews compared to 43-percent in February. Only one in four Israelis meanwhile believe that a military attack would delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons by more than five years. A substantial majority of Israelis favor a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone that would include Israel, though among Israeli Jews this is down from a year ago.
Israelis also appear divided about a UN deal with Iran that would allow it to enrich uranium at low levels under strict and intrusive monitoring. An overall 46-percent of Israelis said they would approve such a deal, while 47-percent said they would not, with 51-percent of Israeli Jews saying such a deal should not be allowed, compared to 44-percent who said it should be allowed.
While only one in four Israelis (24%) think the US “would join the war on Israel’s behalf” if Israel attacked Iran, Israelis appear to be warming to reelected President Barak Obama. An overall 60-percent of Israelis hold “positive” views of Obama, with a considerable increase shown among Israeli Jews (62-percent compared to 54-percent last year). Israelis also appear more optimistic about US-Israel relations, a major point of criticism leveled at the President by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during his campaign. Asked whether relations would “get warmer, stay about the same, or get cooler,” 26-percent thought relations would warm and only 14% thought they would cool; 55% thoughts there would be little change.
The poll also surveyed Israeli opinions about a number of other regional issues including the war in Syria and Israeli-Egyptian relations. Interestingly, less than half of Israelis believe that Israel made strategic gains or prevailed in the Gaza conflict.