JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Only one in five Israeli Jews believes a nuclear-armed Iran would try to destroy Israel and most see life continuing as normal should its arch-foe get the bomb, an opinion poll published on Sunday found.
The survey, commissioned by a Tel Aviv University think-tank, appeared to challenge the argument of successive Israeli governments that Iran must be denied the means to make atomic weapons lest it threaten the existence of the Jewish state.
Asked how a nuclear-armed Iran would affect their lives, 80 percent of respondents said they expected no change. Eleven percent said they would consider emigrating and 9 percent said they would consider relocating inside Israel.
Twenty-one percent of Israelis believe Iran “would attack Israel with nuclear weapons with the objective of destroying it,” the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), which commissioned the poll, said in a statement.
The survey had 616 Jewish respondents and a margin of error of 3.5 percent, INSS research director Yehuda Ben Meir said.
Israeli Arabs who make up some 20 percent of the population — and are generally less likely to see themselves as targets of the Jewish state’s enemies — were not included for budgetary reasons, he said.
Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy needs only. But its leaders’ anti-Israel rhetoric and support for Islamist guerrillas in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have stirred fears of a regional war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to give a major policy speech on Sunday citing Iran’s reach among the reasons his government is reluctant to cede occupied land for a Palestinian state, as envisaged by U.S.-led peace mediators.
Some Israeli officials have said that the Islamic republic’s ruling clerics may consider destroying Israel a goal worth the risk even of a devastating counter-strike: Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal.
Another scenario envisaged by the Netanyahu government is of Iran using the specter of its nuclear power to undermine Israelis’ desire to stay in their homeland.
Like his predecessors, the right-wing Netanyahu has hinted Israel could attack Iran pre-emptively should Western diplomacy fail to curb its uranium enrichment.
The INSS survey found 59 percent of Israeli Jews would support such strikes, while 41 percent would not back the military option. A separate survey, commissioned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found 52 percent support for pre-emptive Israeli attacks on Iran, with 35 percent of respondents opposed.