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Only 15% of Israelis want Netanyahu to keep job after Gaza war, poll finds

Only 15% of Israelis want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay in office after the war on Hamas in Gaza ends, though many more still support his strategy of crushing the terrorists in the Palestinian enclave, according to a poll published on Tuesday.

  • The lack of support for Netanyahu dovetailed with other polls published since the disastrous October 7 attacks, in which Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 240 people hostage.

The Israel Democracy Institute survey, a monthly gauge of Israeli sentiment on current events, also found drooping levels of optimism for the country’s future security and democratic character, reversing a two-month trend, with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz coming up as the leading name to helm the country following the war.

  • In the poll, 56% of those questioned said continuing the military offensive was the best way to recover the hostages, while 24% thought a swap deal including the release of thousands more Palestinian prisoners from Israel’s jails would be best.

The survey asked respondents whether Israel should shift the war in Gaza into lower gear as the army appears set to do, though it framed the move as coming in light of reported American demands. Put that way, some two-thirds of Israelis disagreed with such action.

The army announced this week that it would begin withdrawing some troops from Gaza, in line with plans outlined by officials for a lengthy low-intensity campaign focusing on remaining Hamas strongholds and “pockets of resistance.”

The US, which has backed Israel’s right to self-defense and rejected calls for a ceasefire, has pressed Israeli leaders to transition away from the high-intensity bombing campaign and ground incursion after months of devastating fighting that has left broad swaths of the Strip in ruins.

At the same time, Israeli military officials have indicated the plan was always to transition to a lower-intensity phase, which would last many months more. There has been little sign of dissatisfaction among the army’s top professionals with the emerging end of the high-intensity stage, and top generals have increasingly indicated such a transition is becoming appropriate.

The poll did not appear to gauge general public support for transitioning stages as the army has set out. Rather it asked: “According to reports, the United States is demanding that Israel shifts to a different phase of the war in Gaza, with an emphasis on reducing the heavy bombing of densely populated areas. Should Israel agree to this demand?”

To this, 66% responded in the negative, while 22.7% said yes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the war until Hamas is crushed and the more than 100 hostages still held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza are freed.

While there is nearly unanimous sympathy for the plight of the families of the hostages, the poll showed that many disagree with calls for a so-called “all-for-all” deal that would see Israeli free the thousands of Palestinian prisoners it holds for terror-related crimes in exchange for the return of the 129 hostages still in Gaza — not all of them alive. Rather, many back Netanyahu’s contention that military pressure will lead to their freedom.

  • Many Israelis think the government and military have had only moderate success in meeting the wartime goals of toppling Hamas and bringing the hostages home, the poll showed. Only 26.8% thought Israel had met the goal of toppling Hamas to a large extent, while 14% thought Israel had largely succeeded in bringing the hostages home.

While the October 7 assault exposed worrying holes in Israel’s vaunted defenses, the survey had found the number of people expressing optimism for the country’s security situation over the near future rising from 35% in September to 46.5% in November. In December, however, that figure fell back to 40%, while a brief bump in those expressing optimism about the country’s democratic future — likely tied to a controversial judicial overhaul being set aside — also dropped slightly in December.

Source: TOI