Poll: Olmert, Peretz Approval Ratings Hit New Low Following War

PM's rating dips to 22 percent, defense min.'s to 14; half of Israelis confident inquiry cmte. can fulfill its task.

Israelis are almost equally divided between support for and opposition to the government-appointed committee of inquiry into the Lebanon War, headed by retired district court judge Eliyahu Winograd, a new Haaretz-Dialog survey found.

Of the 507 people who participated in the survey, 41 percent said that they had faith in the committee and its work, while 44 percent said that they were suspicious.

From the point of view of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this finding is potentially positive, in view of the poor showing that he personally made in the survey. Olmert's approval rating this week plummeted to 22 percent, compared to 48 percent six weeks ago.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz fared even worse, with only a 14 percent approval rating, down from 37 percent six weeks ago.

The public is also split in its views on whether Israel should talk to a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas: Some 45 percent believe that Israel should negotiate with such government, while 46 percent think that it should not.

According to the survey, which was carried out under the supervision of Professor Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, most Israelis are optimistic about the future. Some 49 percent believe that the new year (which begins on Friday, according to the Jewish calendar) will be better than the current one, compared to 20 percent who expect it to be worse. Another 23 percent expect no change.

Peretz and Olmert, however, are not even doing well among their own voters: Some 55 percent of Kadima supporters are displeased with Olmert, while 64 percent of Labor voters think that Peretz is doing a bad job.

By comparison, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni enjoys a broad support base: She had a 51 percent approval rating, while only 33 percent think that her performance is inadequate. Still, even Livni lost 10 points compared to her approval rating six weeks ago.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is still benefiting from his support for the government during the war, with a 58 percent approval rating, compared to 29 percent who disapprove.

Indeed, if elections were held now, Likud would receive 24 seats in the Knesset, while Kadima would only win 16 seats, a loss of 13 seats. Labor, which seemed to have hit bottom during the previous election, with 19 seats, would now win only 15.

Another major winner would be Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, which would capture 18 Knesset seats if elections were held now.

Survey participants were also asked to express their confidence in four leadership duos, each comprising a civilian and a military personality. The four were: Ehud Barak and Avraham Burg; Ami Ayalon and Avishay Braverman; Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya'alon; Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz.

The results were clear: Netanyahu and the former chief of staff received 30 percent support, followed by Livni-Mofaz with 19 percent, Ayalon-Braverman with 15 percent and Barak-Burg with 10 percent.

The final question dealt with former justice minister Haim Ramon, who is facing sexual harassment charges. Most of those surveyed thought that Ramon got a bum rap: Only 34 percent said that charges should have been filed, while 46 percent said that they were unwarranted.