The American delegation to the UN boycotted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN General Assembly Wednesday but his words appear to be having a chilling effect on the Israeli public.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz conducted a poll published Thursday which shows half of Israelis “fear for the state’s existence” should a war with Iran erupt. A majority of the country’s citizens believe there is a “high” or “medium” chance of a war with Iran in the coming year. The poll was published to mark the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah – which was celebrated last week.

Haaretz reports:

…half of Israelis say they either “fear” or “greatly fear” for the state’s continued existence if such a war breaks out.

Only a quarter of those questioned said they do not fear for the state’s future in a scenario in which Israel and Iran go to war. Something has evidently happened to Israelis’ famed self-confidence.

While the question of fear for the state’s existence has not been asked in previous opinion polls, it can reasonably be assumed that this is an exceptional finding. That should please Iran’s leaders, who have proclaimed several times recently that the Zionist state’s days are numbered.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly made genocidal threats against the Jewish state, most recently on Monday in New York when Ahmadinejad told reporters Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.”

Last month, he called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that will soon be destroyed.

These are just a few examples of the numerous existential threats articulated by the Islamic Republic’s political, religious and military leaders.

A politician’s bluster is one thing, but taken in context of Iran’s nuclear program that is proceeding apace and its suspected clandestine military nature, it’s not surprising the anxiety among Israelis is increasing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invoked the Holocaust when discussing the Iranian threat, taking at face value the ominous words coming out of Tehran along with its nuclear activity in which sanctions appear not to have made a dent. This is why the Israeli leader has been so insistent the U.S. set red lines for military action, which the Obama administration has to now refused to do.

The Wall Street Journal in a Tuesday editorial noted “four years of failed diplomacy and half-hearted sanctions that he [Pres. Obama] opposed until Congress forced his hand” and asked: “Netanyahu has to take Iran’s words seriously. Why doesn’t Obama?”