Polls: Israelis Wary of Iran Deal, Worried About Dependence on U.S.

YERUSHALAYIM -

A new opinion poll shows a disaffection among Israelis concerning their country’s relationship with the United States, most expressing skepticism of the efficacy of the interim agreement to curb the Iranian nuclear program, and almost half saying that Israel should generally rely less on the United States.

A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) think tank and Tel Aviv University found that 77 percent of Israelis don’t believe the deal will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Monday’s poll surveyed 601 Israelis and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The IDI’s monthly Peace Index poll showed that 49 percent of Israeli Jews said they think Israel should seek new allies, 45 percent said no, and the remainder had no opinion.

However, when asked whether new allies could be found, 70 percent said they didn’t think so.

Of those polled, 71 percent believe the U.S. is Israel’s most loyal and important ally, while 26 percent believe it is not.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that “Israel must not be overly dependent on any one organization or state” and “should not allow herself to be a hostage to anyone.”

Bennett said he had instructed Israel’s Foreign Trade Administration to expedite agreements in the works, not only with the U.S. and European countries but also with India, China, Canada, and Brazil.

A source close to Bennett said he made the statements with prior knowledge of the IDI figures about not relying too much on the United States.

The polling results come during a protracted controversy surrounding the Iran deal and America’s role in it, with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s opposition at the center of it.

Netanyahu’s vehement, open dissent from Washington’s position on Iran has become an issue in and of itself, generating much heated comment in Israel.

Reuters said Tuesday that “some analysts and commentators have said the dispute has pushed relations between the two countries to their worst level in more than 20 years.”

“I think we have to lower the flames with the Americans,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Army radio. “This confrontation isn’t good and it also doesn’t serve our goal.”

While conceding the Iran interim accord was problematic, Lapid criticized Netanyahu for airing his frustrations so publicly.

“This is the best way to do it and so it has always been. You sit behind closed doors and speak about it quietly,” he said, echoing comments made by opposition politicians.

On the other side of the embroglio, at least two local newspapers published articles on Tuesday quoting Israeli officials lambasting Obama’s inner circle and defending Netanyahu.

The Yisrael Hayom daily, which is closely associated with Netanyahu’s political camp, quoted an official in the prime minister’s office comparing the current situation with the 1930s, when Jews warned of the risks posed by Nazi Germany.

“Seventy-five years ago, when there was no [Israeli] state, the Jews tried to talk with American President Roosevelt behind closed doors, and that did not really help the Jews of Europe,” the unnamed official said.

Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the region on Wednesday to meet with Netanyahu again about Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

A diplomatic source said that Kerry and Netanyahu had a furious confrontation at their last meeting in Israel on Nov. 8, with advisers from both sides asked to leave the room.