Report: Israelis Want to Avoid War

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Going about their business on Monday, Israelis seemed more accepting than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the Iran deal.

On the streets of Israeli cities, people questioned about Sunday’s interim accord between global powers and the Islamic Republic voiced doubts about an agreement that Netanyahu said would leave Iran within reach of an atomic bomb.

But they also said the deal, which allows a six-month period of limits to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for up to $7 billion worth of sanctions relief, was preferable to war.

“I am leaning more to the side that it’s worth the effort — the six months — to see if there’s a chance there can be a diplomatic solution,” said Sharon Bar-Lev, 49, from Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv.

“We all want to avoid war in the long run,” Bar-Lev, who works in marketing, told Reuters.

Such sentiments have echoed on Tel Aviv’s stock exchange, which hit a record high on Sunday after news an agreement had been reached in Geneva.

“The market believes the military option is off the table,” said Zach Herzog, head of international sales at Psagot Securities.

“Nobody wants to see a Middle East war break out and see missiles falling on Tel Aviv. Therefore, regardless of Netanyahu’s pulpit sermon, the market forces will prefer to judge the agreement on reality,” he said.

“I’m in favor of dialogue over war,” said Ora Cohen, 61, a physical education teacher from Yerushalayim. But she was nonetheless wary of trusting Iran’s leaders. “Nobody wins a war,” she said. “But on the other hand, I don’t believe them.”

At the same time, however, Cohen voiced a commonly held sentiment among Israelis that the moment has passed when Israel might have been able to use force to head off Iran’s nuclear program: “I think it’s too late,” she said. “At some point we should have acted. But that was a few years ago.”

Joshua Scherer, an 80-year-old former English teacher originally from New York, was skeptical of Obama.

“This president, Obama, won’t use force for anything,” Scherer said. “In any confrontation, we would be on our own.”

Dvorah Levine, 66, a retired school principal from Yerushalayim, also felt the Geneva deal has left Israel standing alone: “The fact we are isolated in the world — it’s frightening and unpleasant,” she said. “This isn’t anything new, really though. We already knew the world doesn’t like us.”

Halil Alian, a garage owner, said Washington’s re-engagement with Iran, despite Netanyahu’s objections, showed that Washington was focusing on its own wider interests in the Middle East at the expense of its traditional ally.

“We are simply chess pieces on a board and the Americans are the ones moving us around according to their strategic whims,” said Alian, 61.