A survey published Thursday finds that both the national mood and individuals' moods among Israel's Jewish population have not dropped significantly since the outbreak of the war in Lebanon. However a significant dip was seen after the battles in Bint Jbeil in which nine IDF soldiers were killed and after a rocket that hit Kfar Giladi killed 12 reservists.
The poll was carried out by the B. I. Cohen Institute for public opinion polls at the Tel Aviv University. Roughly 600 people were questioned in ten telephone surveys between July 19 and August 6. The survey found that people defined their individual moods as higher than the national mood. Among Israeli Arabs there was a lower evaluation of individual mood, national mood and feelings of personal security.
The survey further showed widespread agreement, among more than 90 percent of the Jewish public, that the fighting in Lebanon is justified. Two-thirds of the Jewish public supported the continuation of the offensive. Support was far lower among the Arab sector. Just one-quarter of those questioned believed the fighting was justified.
Professor Yossi Shavit, one of the leaders of the study, told Ynet that researchers were startled by these findings. "The public is united in the belief that the war is justified. Similar data were published at the start of the war and two weeks into it, but we didn't think that support would remain so high a month after the war broke out. Even those who don't support its continuation don't disagree with the fact that the war was started in the first place," Shavit said.
Politicians rate high
The public evaluation of the government's performance also remained high, aside from a certain drop after the battle in Bint Jbeil. The government enjoyed 77.3 percent support among Israeli Jews and 22 percent support among Israeli Arabs. On a personal level, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert swept up more support than Defense Minister Amir Peretz (70 percent on average for Olmert, compared to 60 percent for Peretz). However the degree of confidence in both figures remained stable. Support for both Peretz and Olmert was significantly lower among Israeli Arabs, approaching 35 percent each.
Professor Shavit believed that at this stage politicians could be encouraged by the data, but they had to be examined carefully. "In the meantime, support continues to stand at high levels. But we did other polls since this one, and there is an apparent drop in the public's confidence in the leadership – not a dramatic drop, but definitely a drop. The public feels dissatisfied with the government in general and with the prime minister on two fronts: The first is the social front and the certain amount of neglect of the disadvantaged sectors on the front lines; and the second is criticism that the government on the diplomatic front and the way the war is being carried out," Shavit said.
"It is interesting that while the evaluation of the prime minister is dropping, that of the defense minister is remaining stable."
Confidence in IDF high
The IDF and the Homefront Command earned a great deal of confidence from the side of the public, both Jewish and Arab. Among Israeli Jews over 75 percent expressed their support of the Home Front Command and 87 percent supported the IDF. Among the Arab public, 49.1 percent were confident in the army and 53.2 percent in the Home Front Command.
Professor Shavit was not surprised by these numbers. "The army in general and the commanders in particular are more highly esteemed than the political leadership," he noted.
About half (48.3 percent) of the Israeli public supported direct negotiations with Hamas and one-third (37.8 percent) supported direct negotiations with Hizbullah for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israeli Arabs were more likely to support negotiations – with 87.3 percent backing talks with Hizbullah and 88 percent backing talks with Hamas.
"It is known that the Israeli public wants quick solutions – six days of war and it's over. We were surprised to discover that the public has remained strong in its support of and confidence in the IDF, even a month into the war.
There is no evidence thus far of significant weakening of support or confidence. People are responding to particular incidents and there are changes in the national mood as a result, as after Bint Jbeil and Kfar Giladi, but the trend is that support is continuous and the mood is relatively sturdy."