Russian-speakers See Potemkin Victory in Gaza

Opinion-shapers from the Russian immigrant community appear to be as skeptical of the leadership's proclaimed victory over Hamas in Operation Cast Lead as they were in 2006, when the Kadima's government said it had won the fight against Hezbollah "in points."

Using a historical analogy, one influential Russian-Israeli blogger described "a real victory" as one which ends "with a flag flying high on the Reichstag." Such a victory, she said, was not reached this time.

The sentiment is shared by many, as a recent poll suggests. The survey, preformed by the Israeli Russian-language news site NewsRu, included 2,600 respondents, 85 percent of whom said they disagreed with the decision to end the campaign. Sixty percent of respondents said they were disappointed by it, and 27 percent said they were outraged by it.

Almost 90 percent of the survey's participants said they found the war did not meet its initial objectives. Unlike the army - which this time around enjoyed high esteem among respondents - the government was again seen to have performed poorly. Almost 75 percent of the people surveyed ranked its performance somewhere between "sufficiently capable" and "poor."

The opinions gathered a mere three weeks before the scheduled election carry profound electoral significance. Kadima's cabinet is once again seen a failed leadership. The same phrase, which alleges that the cabinet has "squandered" the army's military achievements, has repeatedly occured in Russian media.

"We Russians may be a primitive bunch, but the only thing we consider to be victory is when the enemy surrenders," one analyst said.

The post-Cast Lead reality among the ranks of the Russian-Israeli community benefits mainly two politicians: Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman.

But while Netanyahu is struggling to hold on to his Russian-speaking bloc - estimated at enough to land Likud five seats in parliament - Lieberman has increased his appeal in the community by much more. He already has seven to eight Russian-speaking seats in the bank.

Lieberman's favorable standing is complemented by a relatively protected political position, guaranteed by his non-aggression pact with Netanyahu, at a time when the political arena is once again beginning to resemble a boxing ring. Likewise, Kadima campaign strategists have also decided to lay off of Lieberman.

Going after Lieberman could seriously backfire on other candidates because of Lieberman's iconic standing as the single-most successful Russian-Israeli politician, which affords him the added respect of Russian speakers who vote for other candidates.