JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Most Israelis oppose a military strike against Iran”s nuclear programme for now, despite fears in the Jewish state that Iran is getting closer to building an atom bomb, a poll showed on Friday.
Israel and the United States accuse Iran of trying to produce nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies this. Recent comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be removed from the Middle East have added to regional tension.
A survey in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said 58 percent of the 510 Israelis polled believed the dispute over Iran”s atomic programme should be handled diplomatically, while 36 percent said its reactor should be destroyed in a military strike.
Israel says Tehran will by March have the know-how to make a nuclear bomb and may be able to produce one within three years. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said global pressure to halt Iran”s nuclear programme should continue.
Israel denied a report in Britain”s Sunday Times last week that it was planning a strike against Iran”s nuclear reactor in March, saying it preferred to let foreign diplomatic pressure on Tehran run its course.
But a senior Israeli official said future military action against Iran”s nuclear programme was not being ruled out. Israel, which is thought to possess the Middle East”s only atomic arsenal, bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.
Asked how Iran would respond to an Israeli military attack, Iranian Defence Minister Mohammad Najjar said: "Iran”s response will be swift, strong and devastating," the official IRNA news agency reported on Friday.