Israelis fear missile attack on Iran will bring war to region

Four out of five expect Hamas and Hezbollah to retaliate

Jerusalem

Four out of five Israelis expect a strike by its military on Iran to lead to war with Hamas and Hezbollah, shows a poll yesterday after media speculation about a possible attack on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

Yet despite the widespread assumption that the country would find itself in a war on at least two fronts in Gaza and Lebanon, the Israeli people are almost evenly divided over whether such a strike should be launched.

The poll came after Wednesday's test of a ballistic missile and the military's disclosure that three F16 fighter-bomber squadrons had exercised over Sardinia in the past week. Then yesterday, the Tel Aviv area held a drill to practice dealing with rocket attacks. The military was quick to say the drill had been arranged long before the present welter of media debate about whether the country's political leadership was seeking to ramp up support for a strike designed to damage Iran's nuclear capacity. But the publicity given to the test launch and the recent joint air exercise with Italy has helped renew the debate in Israel over whether a strike on Iran by its military is desirable or likely.

Some analysts have suggested this could be partly designed to increase pressure on the international community to tighten sanctions after next week's International Atomic Energy Authority report on Iran's nuclear programme and its widely perceived efforts to acquire atomic weapons.

Discussion between Britain and Israel over Iran intensified with a visit to Tel Aviv by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, and the arrival in London of the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak. Mr Barak saw Sir David – who was also holding talks with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff Benny Gantz – before flying to London for a trip which included meetings with Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and William Hague, Foreign Secretary. Officials emphasised that Sir David's visit was one of a regular series by UK defence chiefs to see their Israeli counterparts and had been arranged many months ago.

British and American sources say any military move in the foreseeable future by the Israelis would have to be sooner rather than later, because of the difficulties of winter conditions. Those in favour of an attack are said to be arguing that in a year the Iranian sites will be too well-protected for missile strikes. But some senior IDF officers are said to be arguing there is insufficient evidence to justify this claim and saying any decision on this basis would in fact be political rather than military.

Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, and Yuval Diskin, the former head of the domestic security service Shin Bet, are known to be opposed to any imminent strike. And yesterday Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said they were in favour of diplomatic means to resolve the dispute with Iran, adding: "Let me stress that Nato has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Iran, and Nato is not engaged as an alliance in the Iran question."

Yesterday's Ha'aretz-Dialog poll found 59 per cent of respondents thought it "highly likely" that war would occur with Hamas and Hezbollah and 21 per cent that it would be "fairly likely". Forty-one per cent supported a military strike and 39 per cent were opposed with only 11 per cent having no opinion.

Perhaps more surprisingly, 21 per cent of Israeli Arabs support an attack with 54 per cent opposing one. Thirty-seven per cent of "Russian Israelis" and 50 per cent of ultra-orthodox Jews support an attack, according to the poll, compared with 45 per cent of observant Jews in general.

Two respected security commentators, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, wrote in Ha'aretz that the purpose of some of the military moves was "not necessarily an Israeli attack" but could be to spark international diplomatic manoeuvres to ratchet up sanctions on Iran. But they warned this was a "dangerous game" in which, in the event of several weeks of tension, "one party or another might make a fatal mistake that will drag the region into war".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there