A significant majority of Jewish Israelis, 58%, would support a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities even without a green light from Washington, according to an Israel Democracy Institute report published Wednesday.
That number drops to 51% of Israelis when Israel’s entire population is taken into account, including its significant Arab minority.
Still, for a country that was once ready to downgrade or replace its prime ministers if they did not get along with a US president, and where many security experts consider at least a quiet US “wink” as necessary for an attack on Iran, that the general public feels differently was telling.
The Israeli Voice Index survey for November 2021 was published by IDI’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research.
Less than a third (31%) of Jewish Israelis would not support action against Iran without American approval, while around 82% of Arab Israelis would want the Biden administration to sign off.
Next, the report noted that the gaps between the political camps (among Jewish Israelis) was large, with 67% on the political Right supporting a strike without US consent, while only 37.5% of the political Left would support such a strike.
Perhaps most importantly, 50% of the ever-growing political Center in Israel would support such an attack.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (slated to replace Bennett in 2023) are all viewed as either having right-wing or centrist constituencies.
Though the government also has left-wing and Israeli-Arab parties, these three officials would be the dominant deciders about whether a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program would be necessary, and whether they would be prepared to do so even without US consent.
When Israel struck Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, then-US president Ronald Reagan was furious, but Israel rode out the fallout.
In contrast, when Israel struck Syria’s nuclear program in 2007, then-US president George Bush was supportive after the fact, and the issue had been discussed between the governments.
The Biden administration is not expected to green-light an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities short of the regime being close to being able to fire a nuclear missile, whereas Jerusalem might feel a need to act at an earlier date to avoid missing its window of opportunity.
Next, 54% of respondents thought that Iran is an existential danger to a “large” or “very large” extent to Israel.
About a quarter of respondents viewed Iran as a “medium danger,” while a minority (13%) saw it as posing only a “small danger.”
On this issue, the report again found a large gap between the Jewish and the Arab interviewees.
A large majority (62%) of the Jewish Israelis thought that Iran constitutes an existential danger to a “large” or “very large” extent, while only a minority (19%) of Arab Israelis agreed.
The survey was conducted on the Internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) from November 29 to December 1.
Six hundred and fourteen men and women were interviewed in Hebrew, and 150 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population.
The maximum sampling error was 3.59 %+/- at a confidence level of 95%, with the fieldwork handled by the Midgam Institute.