Tel Aviv — When Israel assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari on November 14, its citizens were in awe of the achievement. It was widely suggested that impact of the killing was the equivalent of Barack Obama’s Osama bin Laden assassination for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that it would aid his smooth return to office.
But the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, a week later, brought a different mood. Some 70% of Israelis opposed the cease-fire, according to a Channel 2 poll conducted shortly before it went into effect.
Such strength of feeling often fades once citizens start enjoying the calm of a cease-fire. But even the next day, when residents of southern Israel were free from rocket fire, some 49% of respondents in another poll, this one for Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon, thought Israel should have continued its campaign. Only 31% thought it should have accepted the cease-fire.
This hard line with regard to security issues was also reflected in primaries for the Likud, which took place November 25 and 26. Veteran moderate lawmakers like Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor lost their places, while firebrand Danny Danon won fifth, and far-rightist Moshe Feiglin, who has never yet made it to Knesset, won 14th.
For Netanyahu, this demand on the part of the public for firm results and a political hard line might create difficulties, since by his own admission the cease-fire was based on a “possibility.”
“I realize that there are citizens who expect a harsher military action, and we may very well need to do that,” Netanyahu said when he announced the halt in combat. “But at present, the right thing for the State of Israel is to exhaust this possibility of reaching a long-term cease-fire.“
Itai Olenik, the pollster who conducted the survey just before the cease-fire took effect, said that public attitudes were influenced by the fact that “there was a lot of preparation of public opinion [by politicians] that we’re going to achieve some sort of definitive win. And what happened is that they shot a lot of missiles, we shot a lot at them, and it seems that we gave in, as we didn’t use all the tools we have.”