Israelis distrust Iran deal but overwhelmingly value alliance with US

Latest ‘Peace Index’ poll shows skepticism over US-brokered interim nuclear deal, but huge majority says US is Israel’s most dependable, important ally

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to Barack Obama at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem in March  2013. (photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to Barack Obama at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem in March 2013. (photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House)

A huge majority of Israelis believe the US-brokered nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran, which has been at the crux of an ongoing diplomatic spat between Israel and the US, will fail to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

At the same time, a huge majority of Israelis from across the political spectrum say the US is Israel’s most dependable and important ally.

The findings come from the latest Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index, a monthly survey of Israeli public opinion.

Fully 77% of Israelis say the nuclear agreement between Western powers and Iran will not end the Islamic Republic’s drive for nuclear weapons. Just 18% said they thought it would.

At the same time, Israelis overwhelmingly welcome the alliance with the US.

The survey asked bluntly: “Since 1967 the United States has been considered Israel’s most loyal and important ally. Do you think it still is?”

Israelis overwhelmingly said yes, with 71% saying they are “sure” (29%) or “think” (42%) it is. Just 26% said America is no longer Israel’s best ally.

The figure crossed ethnic lines. Among Jews, 72% said America was Israel’s closest ally, while 64% of Israeli Arabs agreed.

Israelis are also divided on the recent call by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman for the Jewish state to find other allies to replace the US.

Asked if Israel needs to “find other loyal allies and reduce its dependence on the United States,” 46% of respondents said it does not, while 48% said it does.

But even some Israelis who believe Israel should have additional allies are skeptical Israel could find them. More than two-thirds, or 69%, said it stood only a “moderately low” (33%) or “very low” (36%) chance of doing so.

The result: Most Israelis say the country is at least moderately dependent on US “military, political and economic assistance.”

Almost one-third of Israelis (30%) said it was “totally” dependent, while half (51%) said it was “moderately” dependent. Just 16% said Israel was “almost not” or “not” dependent.

Given the importance of the US alliance, which has been strained by Netanyahu’s open criticism of American policy on Iran, the survey found a surprising result when it asked Israelis to rate Netanyahu’s performance in dealing with the Iran issue.

Asked to rank the prime minister’s handling of the issue on a scale from zero to 10, a huge majority, 63% gave Netanyahu a 6 or higher rating, compared to just 31% who gave him a 5 or below. The figure was higher among Jews, at 67%, but fully 43% of Arabs also gave Netanyahu a positive six-and-above rating.

The latest survey was conducted November 26-27 among a representative sample of 601 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.5%. The Peace Index has been taken monthly since 1994. The detailed results of the latest survey can be found here.

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