One possible reason Bibi hesitates to attack Iran
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, is a courageous leader. Many have no doubt he will do anything to protect the state of Israel, including bombing Iran to prevent that nation from developing the capability to build nuclear weapons.
But Bibi leads a democracy. And the old Latin saying "Vox populi, vox dei" might be staying his hand in attacking Iran.
Only 19 percent of Israelis support an attack against Iran without the backing of the United States, a new poll released on Wednesday found.
In the poll conducted by Shibley Telhami, Brookings nonresident senior fellow and the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, 42% of respondents said they support a strike against Iran only if there is US support for the move. Nearly a third, 32%, of those polled oppose an attack regardless of US support.
According to the poll, 38% of Israelis believe the US would support Israel diplomatically if the Jewish state carried out a unilateral strike against Iran, whereas 27% of respondents think Washington would join in militarily to support Israel even if it struck the Islamic Republic without US approval.
The survey also polled Jewish Israelis' feelings on the US presidential race, with respondents preferring President Barack Obama to all his Republican rivals.
Overall, among Israeli Jews, Obama led Santorum 34% to 21%, Gingrich 31% to 27%, Paul 34% to 24%, and Romney 32% to 29%.
Telhami concluded that "the Israeli public is neither enthusiastic about the prospect of war with Iran nor swayed by the seeming embrace of Israel by our presidential candidates."
Netanyahu might give less weight to public opinion, except when it is this lopsided against a unilateral Israeli strike. He has to take into account the prospect of his government coming apart over the decision to bomb Iran -- especially if the consequences of doing so are more severe than expected.
Yes, he will probably do what is necessary. But any political leader who fails to listen to the voice of the people usually suffers for it in the end.