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74% Israelis oppose counterstrike on Iran if it harms security alliances: Poll

HomeWAR74% Israelis oppose counterstrike on Iran if it harms security alliances: Poll

JERUSALEM — A new poll has laid bare the difficult choices facing Israel’s leaders as they weigh how to respond to Iran’s massive missile barrage, with a large majority of the public opposing any retaliation that could harm the country’s crucial security alliances.

The survey, conducted on April 14-15 by researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, found that 74% of Israelis are against a counterstrike on Iran if such action undermines cooperation with allies like the United States that helped protect Israel during the attacks.

The poll’s stark findings highlight the heavy political pressures on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as it considers its next moves after the unprecedented Iranian assault. While vowing forceful retaliation, Israeli officials must also weigh the potential risks to the security partnerships that were critical to defending the country.

“The public seems very aware of how much Israel relies on allies like the United States when it comes to thwarting threats like the Iranian missile attacks,” said David Zisenwine, a professor of Middle East politics at Tel Aviv University. “There is a strong desire not to take any actions that could jeopardize those relationships long-term.”

The Iranian attack on April 13th saw over 300 missiles and drones fired toward Israeli territory, an audacious operation that marked a dramatic escalation in the longstanding hostilities between the two nations. Thanks to a coordinated air defense effort with the U.S., Britain, France, Jordan and reportedly some Gulf nations, only a handful of the Iranian projectiles made it through to strike Israel.

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That bombardment followed an airstrike Iran blamed on Israel that killed two of its generals in Damascus, capital of Iran’s allied Syria, on April 1st. The Iranian retaliation also came against the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing military operations in the Gaza Strip and fighting with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

In the poll, 56% of respondents said Israel should respond positively to political and military demands from allies in order to maintain its defensive capabilities over time. An even larger 59% felt the American assistance obligated Israel to coordinate any future actions with Washington.

At the same time, there were signs the public could support a muscular response to what was seen by many Israelis as an unacceptable escalation by Iran’s hardline regime. 44% backed a potential Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza city of Rafah, the last major militant stronghold, even if it sparked a crisis in ties with the United States and other partners.

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The results suggest the Israeli public has “a very pragmatic understanding” of the dilemmas involved, according to Zisenwine. “On one hand most realize Israel can’t appear to back down from Iranian aggression, but there’s also a real aversion to anything that could leave Israel isolated,” he said.

During the crisis, Netanyahu’s government has reiterated its right to self-defense while welcoming American calls to deescalate the situation. Most analysts believe any overt retaliation against Iran directly has for now been ruled out in order to stabilize the fragile status quo.

“A large-scale Israeli attack on Iran in the current climate could jeopardize the unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination we’ve seen from partners near and far,” said Yossi Melman, an Israeli intelligence analyst who writes for the Haaretz newspaper. “For all of the hawkish rhetoric, the overriding priority seems to be preserving those vital security alliances.”

Domestic political considerations are also likely factoring into Israeli decision making. With national elections just three months away, the poll suggests Netanyahu’s political rivals would face harsh criticism if they were seen as responsible for a breakdown in critical security ties.

At the same time, the prime minister must avoid appearing weak in the face of arch-enemy Iran’s provocations, which could hurt him at the polls. Israel’s long-running campaign to prevent Iranian forces from entrenching in Syria and block sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah remains a top priority.

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“Netanyahu is walking a tightrope between defending against legitimate threats from Iran and its proxies, while not overreacting in a way that increases regional instability and damages Israel’s alliances abroad,” said Melman. “It’s a delicate balancing act, and a miscalculation could prove very costly.”

The poll’s findings point to just how complex and fraught the choices are for Israeli leaders. The overwhelming public preference appears to be for a “middle ground” approach that deters further Iranian aggression without overtly shattering alliances or plunging the region into an all-out conflict.

“Israel doesn’t want war with Iran, but it also can’t tolerate attacks on its homeland,” said Zisenwine. “Finding that sweet spot that upholds deterrence and preserves key partnerships is the enormous challenge facing Israeli decision makers.”

As the volatile situation remains unresolved, the poll has made clear the depth of public trepidation in Israel toward any actions that could leave it more isolated and vulnerable in an increasingly turbulent Middle East.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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