The Findings in Detail
Lately the issue of Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s response has been at the center of the public discourse. First, we sought to find out how the Israeli public sizes up Iran’s intentions. It turns out that the Jewish public as a whole is divided on the question of whether Iran will attack Israel if it has nuclear weapons: about half (51%) see the chances of this as high, but a considerable minority (42%) views them as low (the rest of the respondents have no opinion). A segmentation of the respondents by self-definition on the right-left spectrum reveals very large gaps: on the right and the moderate right, a majority thinks Iran will attack Israel (60% and 63% respectively); the center is split (46% say Iran will attack and 44% say that it won’t); while on the left and the moderate left, the majority does not believe Iran will attack (69% and 60% respectively). Also interesting is the segmentation by religiosity: whereas among ultra-Orthodox, religious, traditional-religious, and traditional-secular respondents, a majority thinks Iran will attack (58.5%, 60%, 69%, and 57% respectively), only a minority of the secular believes this will happen (40%).
The Arab public as a whole is similarly divided: 50% think Iran will attack while 47% hold the opposite view.
We asked whether the Iranian threat can be dealt with through sanctions. Assessments are negative, at least regarding the current sanctions of Western countries on Iran: 77% of the Jews say these sanctions will not succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclearization. A majority of the Arab public, though smaller (59%), takes the same stance. On this issue, unlike the previous one, we did not find dramatic differences between the political camps or between respondents with different levels of religiosity.
What, then, is the upshot? Should Israel take the initiative and attack Iran? In fact, the public makes a sharp distinction between attacking with U.S. cooperation and attacking without U.S. cooperation. A clear-cut majority of the entire Jewish public (62%) opposes an Israeli strike on Iran if carried out without U.S. cooperation. At the same time, unlike the left-wing, centrist, and even moderate-right groups, in which a majority opposes an attack without U.S. cooperation, a majority (53%) of the group that defines itself as right-wing (about one-quarter of the respondents) supports an attack even under those conditions. As for the Arab public, the rate of those opposing an attack without U.S. cooperation is 66%.
It should be noted that in the Jewish public in general, only 35% see high chances that Israel will initiate a strike on Iran without American cooperation, and the assessment of the Arab public is very similar: only 30% think it's likely that there will be an attack without American cooperation. While a segmentation of the Jewish public by political camp and religiosity revealed disparities in rates, in all the camps, only a minority would expect Israel to attack without the U.S. taking part.
Presumably, the view that Israel will not attack alone is linked to the widespread belief that such an attack would probably fail to achieve its objective. We asked: “In your assessment, what are the chances that such an attack, conducted without U.S. cooperation, would succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclearization for a substantial period of time?” More than half of the Jewish public (53%) does not think such an attack would succeed, while 39% think it would. The opposite picture emerges in the Arab public: 52% say an attack without American cooperation would succeed, while 46% say that it would not.
Segmenting the Jewish public by self-definition on the right-left spectrum reveals that here, too, the only exception is the group defining themselves as right-wing, in which a majority (52.5%) thinks an attack by Israel alone would succeed in setting back Iran’s nuclearization significantly. In the other groups – the moderate right, center, moderate left, and left – only a minority holds this view (42%, 35%, 29%, and 14% respectively).
And what about an attack with U.S. cooperation? Here a fundamentally different picture emerges. In the Jewish public, a clear majority of 65% supports an attack in tandem with the United States. The support is considerably higher among the religious (88%) and traditional-religious (78.5%) groups. After those, in descending order, come ultra-Orthodox (66%), traditional-secular (64%), and secular (55%) respondents.
Segmenting respondents by political camp, however, reveals majorities favoring an attack with U.S. cooperation only among respondents who place themselves on the right and the moderate right (79.5% in both cases) and in the center (54%). Among those defining themselves as moderate left and left, only a minority would support an attack without U.S. cooperation (46% and 34% respectively).
A large majority of the Jewish public (72%) views an attack with U.S. cooperation as having high chances of stopping Iran’s nuclearization for a substantial period of time. In the Arab public, there is a small majority who think an attack with U.S. cooperation would work (57%), but the rate of support for such a strike is clearly lower than in the Jewish public – 47% vs. 51% who oppose such action.
Everyone realizes that an attack on Iran would result in Israeli losses. Some 60.5% of the Jews reject Defense Minister Barak’s assessment that if Israel were to attack Iran, Iran’s retaliatory strikes would claim only about 500 casualties if Israeli citizens were to follow instructions and stay in their homes, and believes that the number of casualties would be higher. In the Arab public, 54% say the same. A segmentation of the Jewish public by political camps and religiosity reveals that all groups reject Barak’s view and consider it an underestimation; this rejection, however, is especially pronounced in the center and on the left, and among the two traditional groups and the secular.
In this context, the assessment of national resilience is particularly interesting. We asked: “If the number of Israeli casualties is in the thousands, and assuming that the objective of a successful strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is achieved, in your opinion, would Israel's national resilience be able to withstand this or not?” A majority of the Jewish public (58% as opposed to 32%) thinks Israeli society has enough national resilience to be able to withstand such a price. In the Arab public, the rate of respondents confident in Israel’s national resilience is even higher at 68%.
Segmenting the Jewish public by religiosity revealed that the most skeptical respondents are the ultra-Orthodox, only 44% of whom think Israel could pay such a price without damage to its national resilience. After them, in ascending order, come the secular, of whom 57.5% think that Israeli resilience could withstand such an outcome, while among the two traditional groups and religious respondents, about two-thirds believe that Israel’s national resilience could withstand thousands of casualties.
Even before President Peres’s visit to the United States, in light of media reports about his intentions to express a negative opinion regarding an Israeli attack on Iran, we checked the public’s view on whether it would be appropriate for him to take a public stand on this issue. The Jewish public is divided on whether it is appropriate for President Peres to express a (negative) position on the issue of an attack when meeting with President Obama. In the Arab public, however, 71% see it as appropriate for him to do so. A segmentation by political camps showed, not surprisingly, that opposition is especially strong on the right and the moderate right (73% in both cases), the center is divided, and a majority of the left and the moderate left, although not huge (57.5% and 52% respectively), sees such a public statement by President Peres as appropriate.
And what does the Israeli public think is in Israel's national interest regarding the outcomes of the struggle raging in Syria? The Jewish public does not have a clear stance. Some 35.5% think a collapse of Assad's regime would be good for Israel, 27% think it would be bad for Israel, and 26% say it does not matter one way or the other. The Arab public is divided: 50% believe the regime’s fall would be bad for Israel, while 41% believe it would benefit Israel. A segmentation by political camps did not yield systematic results.
Should aid be given to either side of the conflict in Syria, and if so, to whom? The Jewish public’s uncertainty about which outcome of the struggle in Syria would be in Israel’s interest apparently explains why an overwhelming majority (84%) think Israel should quietly stay at the sidelines, without helping either side. About half (49%) of the Arab public agrees with that approach, while the rest are divided: 26% support aiding Assad and 23% support assisting the opposition. Note, though, that among Jews defining themselves as left and center, about one-quarter support helping the opposition, while about one-third of Jews who position themselves on the right think Israel should help Assad’s forces.
And what about the Western countries? In the Jewish public as a whole, a majority of 50% thinks the Western countries should aid the opposition forces, one-third say the West should stay out of the conflict, and only 4% favor the West assisting Assad’s forces. In the Arab public, a large minority (43%) thinks the Western countries should keep to the sidelines, while the majority (a total of 50%) is divided between 23% who think the West should assist Assad’s forces and 27% who say the West should bolster the opposition.
Should Israel give shelter to refugees from Syria? We asked: “The media recently reported that Israel is preparing infrastructure on the Golan Heights to absorb Syrian refugees should the situation require it. In your opinion, should or should not Israel accept Syrian refugees if their lives are in real danger?” A small majority (54%) thinks Israel should not open its gates to Syrian refugees. In the Arab public, a not-large majority (58%) similarly opposes giving such people a haven. A segmentation of the Jewish public by political camps reveals large gaps. On the right and the moderate right, only a minority would help the refugees (30% and 33% respectively), the center is split (49% in favor, 48% against), while on the moderate left and the left a majority favors coming to the aid of Syrian refugees (67% and 74% respectively).
The Negotiations Index for February, 2012
The Peace Index project includes ongoing monitoring of the Israeli public's attitudes towards peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The monthly Negotiation Index is comprised of two questions, one focusing on public support for peace negotiations and the other on the degree to which the public believes that such talks will actually lead to peace. The aggregated replies to these two questions are calculated, combined, and standardized on a scale of 0-100, in which 0 represents total lack of support for negotiations and lack of belief in their potential to bear fruit, and 100 represents total support for the process and belief in its potential. Each month, the Negotiations Index presents two distinct findings, one for the general Israeli population and the other for Jewish Israelis.
Negotiations Index: General sample 48.6; Jewish sample: 44.4
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. This month's survey was conducted by telephone on February 28-29 by the Dahaf Institute. The survey included 610 respondents, who constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population of Israel. The measurement error for a sample of this size is 4.5%; statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.