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Contentions

Spinning Israeli Public Opinion

Asking silly questions has become a habit for headline-seeking pollsters. Today, it was Tel Aviv University’s turn:

Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Sounds scary? Yes, if you merely follow press releases; no, if you do some research (something not all journalists find necessary).

First, there’s nothing new about this finding, and the number of Israelis fearing a nuclearized Iran hasn’t increased. This study, conducted for the Herzliya Conference back in January, asked: If a hostile state in the region is threatening Israel with nuclear arms, will you be willing to live in the country? The response: 81% (of Jews) said yes. A year earlier, in 2008, the percentage was exactly the same: 81%. Namely, about 1 in 5 Jews might consider leaving Israel. Since for Israeli Arabs the percentage is a bit higher, the 1 in 4 figure from the more recent study is old news.

But even so, is it even important that Israelis say they may consider leaving the country because of a nuclearized Iran? Consider the same Herzliya poll. To the question “Would you be ready to move and live in a different country?” 6% answer “definitely yes,” 34% say “depends on circumstances.” That is 40% of Israeli Jews (for Israeli Arabs, the percentage is much lower this time around) who might consider leaving under certain conditions.

Think about this figure, and suddenly, the new poll doesn’t look grim at all — on the contrary. If 40% of Israelis might consider leaving under certain conditions, but only 25%, if Iran becomes nuclear, the conclusion is that almost half of those prone to “consider” do not think that a nuclearized Iran represents a sufficiently severe circumstance to warrant leaving.



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