Six days into the aerial attack on Gaza, 84 percent of the Israeli public supports Operation Pillar of Defense, with 12 percent opposing it, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll taken Sunday. The poll surveyed proportional samples of Jews and Arabs, indicating that Jewish support for the war stands at upwards of 90 percent.
At the same time, however, only 30 percent of the public supports a ground attack in Gaza.
Israelis also give a clear nod of approval to the political leadership that ordered and leads the operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Netanyahu and Barak now have much higher level of approval ratings than in previous surveys before the operation - a jump of about 20 percent.
But they still fall short of the approval ratings of their predecessors, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War. Olmert and Peretz had 85 percent approval ratings for the first week or two of that war; Netanyahu and Barak now have 55 percent and 52 percent approval ratings, respectively.
We are now in an election campaign and the public is polarized, and feels in no hurry to express its satisfaction with the present leadership. The results of the survey indicate that now would be the best time to end the operation - at least politically, if not necessarily strategically or militarily. Previous experience shows that from now on, it will only get worse for the leadership as matters become more complicated and the public's exuberance wears off.
The low level of support for a ground action in Gaza also shows that Israelis understand very well the heavy price in casualties such a move would likely incur among our soldiers, as well as the limited benefits of such an operation.
The last time Netanyahu had such high approval ratings was over a year ago, following Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas captivity. Somewhat ironically, it is Gaza and Hamas that have twice sent the prime minister's approval ratings soaring during his four years in office.
Barak is another winner from the operation. His Atzmaut party now looks as if it will make it into the next Knesset, and Barak may yet remain defense minister in the next government. As a party leader, Barak has little support, but as defense minister the public approves of him, and 42 percent want to see him as defense minister after the election, too.
As for the upcoming Knesset election, Netanyahu and his joint slate with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party should have a large right-wing majority to establish the government, the survey shows. The right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties would win 69 Knesset seats, the survey finds, while the center-left bloc would win only 51 seats, including two belonging to Atzmaut.
Kadima is on the verge of falling below the minimum threshold for entering the Knesset, and only Olmert would pull it over this barrier. Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party is still stuck, waiting to hear what Olmert and Tzipi Livni decide to do in the election. Shelly Yacimovich and the Labor Party would win 21 seats, based on the present survey.
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