A majority of the Jewish public in Israel
opposes a ceasefire in Gaza without kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit's
release, according to the monthly War and Peace Index poll conducted about a week and a half after the start of Operation Cast Lead.
Beyond the decisive support for the Israel Defense Forces' operation, the public also backs the raid's continuation even if Hamas
holds fire under certain conditions.
The respondents were asked, "If a ceasefire agreement with Hamas could be reached, but without including Gilad Shalit's release, do you believe Israel should or should not sign such an agreement?" About 76.5% gave a negative answer, while only 17.5% responded positively.
Asked whether Israel should or should not halt its military activity in the Strip if Hamas is ready to stop firing on southern communities in exchange for the opening of the crossings, 80% responded negatively. In other words, the majority of the public believes Israel should not halt its operation even if Hamas accepts such an offer.
Before the recent days – which saw additional IDF casualties, and many casualties among the Palestinian and UN workers – the operation was supported by a sweeping majority of the Jewish public: 94% of the Jewish public said they support or very much support the operation, 92% said they believe it benefits Israel in terms of security, and a clear but smaller majority believes the operation helps Israel diplomatically as well.
Ground incursion – necessary (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
About 92% of the population justifies the Air Force strikes in Gaza despite the damage caused to infrastructure and the civilian population's suffering. The decision to send in ground forces was also widely supported, with 70% saying this was a necessary move.
Asked whether the operation must be continued, a vast majority of the public shares the same opinion, with 90% of respondents saying the operation should be continued until Israel reaches all of its goals.
This support was accompanied by the estimate of 70% of the public that the chances of the operation achieving all of its goals are high or quite high, and that the government has a clear plan of action as to ways to continue the operation (75%).
The wide support for the ongoing fighting seems to be fed largely by the public's positive estimates today in regards to the IDF's fighting abilities (93%) and the southern communities' stamina (87%).
In light of the wide support, it's not surprising that the leaders linked to the operation receives relatively high trust scores, although there are differenced between the different officials.
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
leads the trust scale with 85%. This is likely because the IDF is considered "above" the political arena.
Barak observes military training (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
Ashkenazi is followed by President Shimon Peres
and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
(62%), and by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
and Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu
(53%). Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
is located at the bottom of the trust scale with only 44%.
The findings from a similar survey held among Israel's Arab citizens paint an opposite picture on almost every question. For example, 85% of the Arabs oppose the operation; 93% believe Israel should halt it based on an agreement which would include Hamas ceasing the rocket fire in exchange for opening the crossings; and 80% believe Israel should sign a ceasefire agreement even if it fails to include Shalit's release.
The War and Peace Index is conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research. Published monthly since 1994, it is run by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann. The current telephone survey was conducted by the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research at Tel Aviv University between January 4 and 6, and was compiled of 593 Israeli citizens representing the various adult sectors in Israeli society. The sampling error is 4.5%.