Polling: Israelis Wary Of A Unilateral Attack On Iran

Discussion of a U.S. and/or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is emerging as one of the foremost foreign policy issues in 2012. President Obama warned against “loose talk of war” with Iran. And former Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan tells CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, in an interview to be aired on Sunday, that “An attack on Iran before you are exploring all other approaches is not the right way.”

Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have both struck a more hawkish tone, asserting without corroboration from the IAEA and U.S. intelligence services that Iran is definitely building a nuclear weapon. But, despite the eagerness of GOP hawks to discuss military action, the Israeli public is far from convinced that a military strike will serve Israel’s long-term interests or come without a sizable cost in Israeli lives.

A new poll conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Guttman Center [PDF] finds that 62.9 percent of Israelis strongly or moderately oppose an Israeli unilateral attack on Iran. See the breakdown below:

Approximately 70 percent of Israelis believe such an attack would be ineffective in “stopping Iran’s nuclearization for a substantial time” and approximately 60 percent think that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is underestimating in his assessment that an Iranian retaliatory strike will cause about 500 Israeli casualties.

The Guttman Center’s findings fall in line with a series of recent polls on Israeli public opinion. A Haaretz poll released yesterday found that 58 percent of Israelis oppose an strike on Iran without U.S. backing. And a University of Maryland poll last month showed that only 19 percent of Israelis support an attack without U.S. backing.

The IAEA has expressed concerns about “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program and is reportedly concerned that the Iranians may be attempting to cleanse a military site of nuclear weapons related work. Obama publicly stated that an Iranian bomb would pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies and do damage to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Neither Israeli nor U.S. intelligence officials have asserted that Iran has yet restarted its nuclear weapons program.

The Guttman Center poll found that 64 percent of Israelis would support an attack on Iran if launched in cooperation with the U.S. while 43 percent still opposed a preemptive strike.