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A Heartening Hardening Of Israeli Public Opinion


     Israeli public opinion polls taken in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon reveal a dramatic erosion of popular support for the Olmert government and its policies. A survey conducted between Aug. 17-22 among 1,032 Jewish Israelis by the noted pollster Prof. Yitzhak Katz of Maagar Mohot is significant in its portrayal of a public disillusioned with the government’s management of the war and past governments’ strategies that led to the current
 
      An overwhelming majority of Israelis now recognize not just the inefficacy of the present government but the peril created by years of appeasement. According to the poll, 51% define the war in Lebanon as a failure, with only 25% declaring it a tie, and a paltry 10% an Israeli victory. When asked whether the outcome of the war increased or decreased the danger of another, more serious, war in the future, an overwhelming 73% said the danger had increased.
 
      And while 76% agreed that the IDF had not properly prepared for war during the past five years, 64% placed the blame on the Israeli government. Consistent with these views was the crushing condemnation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the political parties responsible for the current state of affairs.
 
      The displacement of more than a million of their fellow citizens and the deaths of both soldiers and civilians have convinced most Israelis that they can no longer afford the luxury of denial.
 
      Sixty-three percent of the respondents blamed Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza for the war with Hizbullah and 73% said they opposed withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Asked whether they agreed or disagreed that recent Israeli policies vis-?-vis the Arab states and the Palestinians were irresponsible, 57% replied that the fault lay with the Israeli government’s approach. The same number concurred with the statement that, in retrospect, attempts to achieve peace with the Palestinians had harmed the State of Israel.
 
      Fifty-five percent agreed that the Oslo accords and the disengagement from Gaza were unjustified in light of the deep division those policies created among Israelis.
 
      The dramatic rightward shift in public opinion was reflected in the fact that 62% of those polled agreed that Israel should be tougher with the Palestinians and not look for easy solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. An overwhelming 60% agreed with the statement “Israel’s enemies aren’t interested in peace.”
 
      It may come as a surprise to anyone with a minimum of self-awareness that it took an outright war to bring to the surface the spirit of self-preservation and survival that seemed to have disappeared from the Israeli psyche sometime in the early days of Oslo. But the body bags that came home from Lebanon dashed many a long-held illusion.
 
      Contrast this national reassessment with the stand taken by Israel’s Arab citizens, most of whom were unabashed in stating their allegiance to the enemies of their country. In a poll taken by Mina Tzemach’s Dahaf Institute, 73% refused to say they supported Israel in its war against Hizbullah, with 54% saying outright that they opposed Israel.
 
      Israel’s internal traitors, like Israel’s hostile neighbors, are single-minded in the pursuit of their goals. They are unashamed to say what they really feel – unafraid to rub their disloyalty in the face of a country whose government has been far too timid in safeguarding the security of its loyal citizens.
 
      But the views of Israeli Arabs should not distract us from the shift in thinking among Jewish Israelis. Pollster Katz waded into politically incorrect territory by asking his respondents whether the State of Israel should offer Palestinians in Judea and Samaria reasonable compensation in return for emigrating. Forty-eight percent answered in the affirmative, 41% disagreed, and 11% said they didn’t know.
 
      Asked if they “agree or disagree with the proposal that Israeli Arabs ought not to be citizens of Israel but rather should adopt a different citizenship,” 46% agreed, 37% disagreed and 17% didn’t know.
 
      These subjects are not openly debated and are rarely if ever presented to the public by pollsters. The knowledge that Israelis are finally awakening to the dangers created by the misguided policies of their leaders – and by their own apathetic acceptance of those policies – is a small but tangible comfort to those of us who recognized and feared those dangers all along.
 

      Sara Lehmann, formerly an editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, is currently a mother and freelance editor residing in Brooklyn.

About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.


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