Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first public comments since a cease-fire this week ended fighting in the Gaza Strip were determined and confident. Israel had secured both “a great military achievement and a political achievement,” Netanyahu said Wednesday.
The first public opinion polls, however, suggest Israelis are more ambivalent about the outcome.
Surveys conducted during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian forces found Israelis unwavering in their support for their nation's military actions, as well as Netanyahu’s leadership throughout the fighting.
Less conclusive were public opinions about the war’s results. Three weeks ago, a survey conducted for Haaretz found that 51% of respondents felt neither side was winning the war.
A follow-up poll carried by the same paper finds this attitude unchanged; after Tuesday's cease-fire, 54% said there was no winner.
Netanyahu’s approval rate fell from 77% in early August to 50% after the fighting ended, although support for the prime minister remains higher than it was two months ago, before the war.
If public satisfaction with Netanyahu’s performance during the crisis dropped considerably after the cease-fire, he still wins the most support as the politician best suited to serve as prime minister with 42%. Other politicians trail far behind.
Netanyahu has come under heat from his own party and coalition, which appear more critical of his positions than the general public.
Hawkish officials such as Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have openly criticized the truce with Gaza militants and pushed to continue Israel’s military offensive. Other outspoken critics come from within Netanyahu’s own party.
However, as Culture Minister Limor Livnat told Israeli media Thursday while discussing criticism of Netanyahu: “None of those calling to replace the prime minister would like to trade places with him at a time like this.”
Sobelman is a special correspondent.