Binyamin Netanyahu, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, AIPAC, and the rest of those politicians that claim that Iran poses an existential threat to the world are having a tough time convincing Israeli and American citizens. According to opinion polls – at least those that can be trusted – support for war simply isn’t there.
In a recent poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, only 1 in 4 Americans favor an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Additionally, 70% favored diplomatic paths to mitigating the conflict. Along party lines, 58% of republicans favored diplomacy, along with 79% of Democrats and 67% of Independents. The majority of those polled – 3 out of 4 people – believe that the U.S. should go through the UN Security Council in dealing with Iran. Furthermore, most believe that a strike would lead to a protracted war and that it would not weaken the Iranian regime. When asked what to do if Iran retaliates against Israel after a strike, only 25% favored U.S. military assistance.
In Israel, similar feelings prevail. In a February 2012 Israeli public opinion poll by the University of Maryland, only 19% of Israelis favor a unilateral strike by Israel, and only 42% think a strike is wise even with U.S. support. Additionally, 68% of Israelis believe that if Israel struck Iran, Hezbollah would join Iran in retaliation. When it comes to the next U.S. president – given the option of Romney or Obama – both candidates receive 29% of support from Israel. Given Rick Santorum or Ron Paul as options against Obama, Obama is the favored choice.
So what can be learned from these polls?
On the American side, it says that the long, protracted, and unjust war that just ended in Iraq taught Americans to err on the side of caution when making decisions about whom to go to war with. U.S. citizens are clearly opposed to sending troops to fight another trumped up war for no good reason. Additionally, it says that Americans do not feel so strongly that the U.S. should protect Israel at all costs when interests do not align.
It seems as though Israelis understand better than anyone that a strike on Iran will bring violence to their country. Additionally, they seem to lean a bit left of center when it comes to American politics, away from war hawks like Santorum and other conservatives.
The ironic part is that while AIPAC and other staunch supporters of Israel like to use the fact that Americans and Israelis have a strong and unbreakable bond, they are exactly right when it comes to avoiding war with Iran. Let’s hope that public opinion prevails.