Poll: Most Israelis Support Continuing Gaza Military Op

According to Haaretz survey, 52 percent back continued air assault while 19 percent support ground operation.

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A decisive majority of respondents support continuing the army's air campaign against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip without endangering the lives of Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a ground offensive, according to a Haaretz-Dialog public opinion poll.

Only about 20 percent of respondents support expanding the operation into a ground campaign - about the same proportion that supports an immediate cease-fire.

According to the survey, 52 percent of Israelis favor continuing the air assault against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, though just 19 percent say the Israel Defense Forces should launch an extensive ground incursion.

In contrast, 19 percent of respondents say the government should negotiate a cease-fire as soon as possible. Nine percent say they had no opinion or refused to answer.

The Labor Party has emerged the biggest political winner of the war against Hamas so far, according to the poll.

Labor and its head, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have made significant gains, bringing the left-wing to a 60:60 draw against right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Just a week ago, before the offensive, the poll gave the right bloc 65 MKs and the left 53 plus two for the Pensioners. While Likud actually gained support in the past week, it came at the expense of other right-wing parties.

Labor, on the other hand, is mostly pulling votes away from parties such as the Pensioners, Meretz and the various environmentalist parties.

According to the survey, conducted Wednesday under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, if the Knesset elections were to be held today both of the main blocs would find it hard to form a government unless one of the parties were to defect to the rival side.

Just five days into the war, though, Israeli casualties have been minimal and there is an overall sense that the operation is a military success.

Experience teaches that the poll numbers could change very quickly with any complication in the fighting. During the first week of the Second Lebanon War, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then defense minister Amir Peretz enjoyed unprecedented popularity ratings of 75 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Two months later those ratings fell by about 90 percent.

As expected, Barak and Labor are the main beneficiaries of the war, for now. The latest poll has added 5 Knesset seats to Labor. Likud and Kadima gained two and one MK, respectively.

At this stage the war bodes well for the three leading parties. Most of the public reportedly believes that in time of war it's best to vote for parties whose candidates are experienced, such as former chiefs of staff, prime ministers and defense and foreign ministers.

Barak's personal fortunes improved sharply, with 53 percent of poll respondents expressing satisfaction with his performance (compared to just 34 percent about six months ago). A larger number, 38 percent, are dissatisfied with him but that is nevertheless a significant improvement over the 52 percent disapproval rating of six months ago.

Olmert, too, has gotten a popularity boost, with a 33 percent popularity rating this week compared to an average of 14 percent since the Second Lebanon War, about two and a half years ago.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu are also getting good grades from the public for their performances in recent days.



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