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The question that has confused analysts is what Israelis actually wanted from Operation Pillar of Defense. Despite the strong feeling against a cease-fire, a few days before it was negotiated, a Haaretz poll found that just 30% of Israelis supported a ground operation. But military commanders saw such a ground operation as the only effective way to advance the campaign.
“People had self-contradicting points of view,” commented Meir Elran, head of the homeland security program at the Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
Elran said, “They want quiet, they want the other side to be weakened, and they want Hamas to be humiliated to an extent, but beyond that, it’s not really clear to people what should happen [regarding Gaza].”
In the thick of the military campaign, polls showed Netanyahu’s election roster hitting its highest mark since his decision to run the Likud party, which he heads, on a joint list with the right-wing faction Yisrael Beiteinu. The joint list won 41 of the Knesset’s 120 seats at that time, according to the polls. But that has since dropped. It now stands at about 37 to 39 seats, a score similar to that prior to Operation Pillar of Defense.
Pollsters say that the impact of the war on the election will only become clear only when Israelis have had a chance to consider whether they deem the military operation a success or a failure. Hamas “claims they won because they didn’t cave in and they shot on Tel Aviv. For us, winning is only judgeable over time,” said Olenik, a statistician at Shiluv Millward Brown. “Only a month or half a year from now if no rockets fall can Israel say this was a success.”
Camil Fuchs, director of the Dialog polling company, told the Forward that if the quiet in southern Israel continues, the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list could well expect to be rewarded electorally. It will have a “positive effect on Likud by it not going in to an election with rockets falling in the South,” he said.
But analysts have also suggested that quiet on Israel’s borders could be a double-edged sword for the new joint list. “Now, we are talking about security; this is the only agenda,” said Yitzchak Katz, CEO of the Maagar Mochot survey group, referring to the hope in the center and on the left that the election would address socioeconomic issues, a hope that appears to have evaporated since the Gaza operation. Yet if the calm continues, it could give the center and left a chance to revive these issues.