Sunday, August 13, 2006

Israeli Public Opinion and the Mideast Cease-Fire

I wrote about the surprising effectiveness of Hezbollah in an earlier post, and how the difficulties of the Israeli campaign in Lebanon were sowing cracks in domestic backing for the deployment. Now, according to this New York Times report on national opinion on the war's progress, there exists no hardcore peace camp on either the left or right of Israel's political spectrum:

As Israel’s war with Hezbollah finishes a fourth difficult week, domestic criticism of its prosecution is growing. Yet there is a paradoxical effect as well: the harder the war has been, the more the public wants it to proceed. The criticism is not that the war is going on, but that it is going poorly. The public wants the army to hit Hezbollah harder, so it will not threaten Israel again. And while Israelis are upset with how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has run the war, they seem to agree with what he told aides this week — that given the weaponry and competence of Hezbollah and the damage already done to Israel, “I thank God the confrontation came now, because with every year their arsenal would have grown.” Abroad, Israel is criticized for having overreacted and for causing disproportionate damage to Lebanon and its civilian population and even for indiscriminate bombing. But within Israel, the sense is nearly universal that unlike its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, this war is a matter of survival, not choice, and its legitimacy is unquestioned.
Toward the end of the piece it indicates that the Olmert government faces tough questions on its prosecution of the engagement, with a comparison to the political fallout in 1973, when Golda Meir was driven from office after her government was caught by surprise at the initial attacks on Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

Polling results on the war in Israel released last Friday indicate there's substantial disgruntlement with Olmert's performance, and according to Saturday's Los Angeles Times article on the U.N. Security Council's cease-fire resolution, mounting public criticism of the war drove Israel's "security Cabinet" to authorize this weekend's deep thrust of Israeli forces into Lebanon. According to the report, "Thousands of rockets have hit Israel in more than four weeks of fighting, the heaviest bombardment the Jewish state has suffered since its founding 58 years ago.The failure to stem those attacks, the rising number of military casualties and the struggle to retain control of towns and villages captured from surprisingly well-armed and organized fighters have sparked growing public criticism in Israel."

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