â€œPretty soon . . . you will have nine weapons states and probably another 10 or 20 virtual weapons states.â€–Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Only one in five Israeli Jews believes a nuclear-armed Iran would try to destroy Israel and most see life continuing as normal should the Islamic Republic get the bomb, an opinion poll published on Sunday found.
The survey, commissioned by a Tel Aviv University think-tank, appeared to challenge the argument of successive Israeli governments that Iran must be denied the means to make atomic weapons lest it threaten Israelâ€™s existence.
Asked how a nuclear-armed Iran would affect their lives, 80 percent of respondents said they expected no change. Eleven percent said they would consider emigrating and 9 percent said they would consider relocating inside Israel.
Twenty-one percent of Israelis believe Iran â€œwould attack Israel with nuclear weapons with the objective of destroying it,â€ the Institute for National Security Studies, which commissioned the poll, said in a statement.
The survey had 616 Jewish respondents and a margin of error of 3.5 percent, INSS research director Yehuda Ben Meir said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like his predecessors, has hinted that Israel could attack Iran pre-emptively should Western diplomacy fail to curb its uranium enrichment.
The INSS survey found 59 percent of Israeli Jews would support such strikes, while 41 percent would not back the military option. A separate survey, commissioned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found 52 percent support for pre-emptive Israeli attacks on Iran, with 35 percent of respondents opposed.
Israeli Arabs, who make up some 20 percent of the population and are generally less likely to see themselves as targets of Israelâ€™s enemies, were not included for budgetary reasons, he said.
Israel, the United States and other western nations say Iranâ€™s nuclear program is aimed at manufacturing nuclear weapons. Iran, the worldâ€™s fourth largest oil producer, insists its uranium enrichment program is for civilian needs only.
But Iranian leadersâ€™ anti-Israel rhetoric and support for the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah have stirred fears of a regional war.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is expected to devote a more significant part of a major foreign policy speech to the Iranian threat, officials close to the premier said, in the wake of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadâ€™s electoral win Saturday.