Thursday, January 01, 2009

Most Israelis Satisfied with War So Far

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that most Israelis are satisfied with the Gaza War so far.

According to Haaretz, 52% think the air campaign should be continued as is, about 20% think that the war should be escalated by a ground campaign, and 20% think Israel should declare a ceasefire and negotiate with Hamas. (I think Israel could have negotiated with Hamas before the war started !)

On bright side, having 20% oppose a war after only one week, is more than doves like me have come to expect. It took many weeks for Israeli public opinion to seriously question the purpose and worth of the 2006 Lebanon war. Same with the 1982 Lebanon war: it was wildly popular in its first weeks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has an approval rating of 53% right now, while former Defense Minister Amir Peretz had an approval rating of 80% one week into the Lebanon 2 war: and he was forced to resign in disgrace ten months later.

Of course Hamas seems to have a less effective rocket arsenal than Hezbollah did, and Israel has not - yet - started a ground campaign. If Hamas rockets start to cause any serious damage (not that the 3 Israeli civilians killed so far isn't serious, it just not serious to enough people), or if the ground campaign gets bogged down, and Israeli troops sustain major casualties, public opinion will be quick to change. So far, from the perspective of the average Israeli, this has been a war "de-luxe" - 99% of the suffering has been on the other side.

One interesting piece of dissent - in that it did not come form the usual "leftist elements" - is the the following statement from one of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu's most important supporters, longtime Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar. He is calling on Israel to negotiate with Hamas. Netivot is the town where Israel's first causality of this war occurred when a Hamas rocket killed city resident Bebert Valnin last Saturday.

"The fact that we have so far not held talks with Hamas is a mistake. In order to achieve the calm we are hoping for, we will have to speak to Hamas this time around, too. It's too bad they didn't aspire enough to an agreement, because ultimately we'll be talking only with Hamas."


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