Poll: 77 Percent of Israelis See Iran Nukes as Existential Threat

, March 27, 2012

Vol. 12, No. 4     27 March 2012

Jewish Israelis conducted in March 2012 by Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs sought answers to the following questions:

  1. How do Israeli citizens understand the Iranian threat?
  2. Is the use of force the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear plans?
  3. How do the U.S. and Israel compare in their abilities to prevent a nuclear Iran?
  • An overwhelming majority of Israelis believe that the Iranian nuclear threat constitutes an existential threat to the State of Israel and that the only way to stop Iran’s nuclearization is by a military attack.
  • Two-thirds of Israelis (65%) think the price Israel would have to pay for living under the shadow of the Iranian nuclear bomb is higher than the price it would pay for attacking Iran’s nuclear capability.
  • 60% agree that the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear program is by a military attack; 66% believe in the IDF’s ability to damage Iran’s nuclear program substantially.
  • 63% believe that the price the Israeli home front will pay if the United States attacks Iran is similar to the price it will pay if Israel does so
  • A 60% majority agree with the statement that the only way to stop Iran’s nuclearization is by a military attack.

The survey reveals that a substantial majority of Israelis (60%-36%) believe that the United States will act militarily against Iran if the sanctions do not suffice to stop it from nuclearizing. While a huge majority (80%-9%) of Israelis agree that the American military is capable of damaging Iran’s nuclear program substantially, Israeli citizens’ level of belief in the IDF is very high: a very sizable majority (66%-29%) believes that the IDF, too, has the ability to considerably damage Iran’s nuclear program.

Respondents were asked to assess the “relative price” Israel would have to pay in two situations: in the case of the U.S. attacking Iran vs. Israel deciding to do so by itself; and in the case of living under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb vs. attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.  

While 30% do not agree with the statement that it is preferable for Israel if the U.S. acts, a majority of 62%-30% agree that if the U.S. acts to stop Iran, the price for Israel will be lower than if Israel acts alone. At the same time, 63% (vs. 29%) believe that if the U.S. mounts an attack on Iran, the price for the Israeli home front from Iranian missiles will be similar to the price Israel will have to pay for an Israeli operation against Iran.

Two-thirds (65%-27%) believe that the price Israel would have to pay for living in the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb is higher than the price it would pay for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Notably, 56% of the women, compared to 73% of the men, agree that the price Israel would pay for living with an Iranian nuclear bomb would be higher than the price for attacking.

The survey looked at the implications of an Iranian nuclear bomb by asking: do Israelis agree with the statement that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will use them against Israel, b) do they agree with the statement that the Iranian threat constitutes an existential threat to Israel, and c) do they think that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, the Palestinians and Hizbullah will grow more belligerent toward Israel? A majority of 61% (vs. 34%) agree that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will use them against Israel. An even larger majority (of 77% vs. 21%) agree that the Iranian threat constitutes an existential threat to Israel. A similar majority of 75% (vs. 21%) think that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, the Palestinians and Hizbullah will grow more belligerent toward Israel.