Poll: Israelis Don’t Want Iran Attack Without U.S. Support

Recent war chatter has highlighted the possibility that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies say a nuclear armed Iran threatens regional security and nonproliferation and are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring such weapons. But some Israeli leaders view Iran with nuclear weapons as an “existential threat,” and say they may strike Iran if they perceive that the nuclear program is entering a “zone of immunity.” Israeli officials, including its foreign minister, have hinted that such an attack would be their decision and their decision alone.

But a poll released today by the University of Maryland showed that Israelis don’t support that policy. Indeed, Maryland professor and Brookings Institution scholar Shibley Telhami wrote:

Only 19 percent of Israelis polled expressed support for an attack without U.S. backing, according to a poll I conducted — fielded by Israel’s Dahaf Institute Feb. 22-26 — while 42 percent endorsed a strike only if there is at least U.S. support, and 32 percent opposed an attack regardless.

Here’s a chart included in the poll results:

The reported estimates of U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies don’t indicate that Iran has made a choice to build nuclear weapons — a conclusion matching that of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency. Top U.S. intelligence and Pentagon (both brass and civilian) officials have also publicly corroborated this estimate.

More than a quarter of those surveyed think the U.S. would join an Israeli war, and nearly one in four said the U.S. would give Israel diplomatic but not military support. Israelis were nearly evenly divided on how long they thought a war would last: time frames of “days,” “weeks” and “years” each garnered about one in five responses, while 29 percent thought the resulting conflict would last “months.”

The poll also shows that 22 percent of Israelis think an Israeli strike would delay Iran’s nuclear program by more than five years, and the same amount think it would “delay Iran’s capabilities” by three to five years. Nearly 20 percent think it would have no effect on the nuclear program and one in ten said it would accelerate the program.

In another turn against the conventional wisdom, the poll showed that Israelis favor President Obama over all the potential Republican candidates except for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who was tied with Obama for 29 percent of respondents each.