Kerry, Netanyahu in Tel Aviv July 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Even back in the middle of last week, when it still seemed as if Hamas might actually have ceased its fire, only a minority of Israelis thought Israel had won the war. In three different polls, sizable majorities – ranging from 59 percent to 78 percent – termed the war at best a draw, and perhaps even an Israeli defeat; only 21% to 41% deemed it an Israeli victory. Thus, one would expect Israelis to be angry at the prime minister who presided over this fiasco. Instead, Binyamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war was approved by 59% of respondents in one poll and a whopping 77% in another.Analysts as diverse as the centrist Shmuel Rosner and the left-wing Haaretz’s Yossi Verter explained this anomaly as reflecting a recognition that defeating Hamas isn't possible, so a tie was the best that could be achieved. Yet that explanation doesn't jibe with another poll finding: A majority of Israelis wanted to continue the operation rather than ending it. That makes no sense if they actually thought the operation had achieved the maximum possible; who in Israel would want IDF soldiers to continue dying in Gaza for nothing? Indeed, respondents even told pollsters which additional goals they wanted achieved: eliminating Hamas’s rocket capabilities, topping Gaza’s Hamas government, targeting Hamas leaders.