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Poll: Over half of Israelis feel let down by war cabinet’s handling of Hamas conflict

A majority of Israelis are unhappy with the way the war cabinet is handling the fight against Hamas in Gaza, and just over half back an immediate probe into how the devastating attack on the country that started the war was able to happen, a survey published Wednesday found.

  • The poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, also found that a majority opposes releasing all of the thousands of Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel to win freedom for the roughly 130 hostages held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Setting aside the deep and enduring political schism over the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, Benny Gantz brought his National Unity party from the opposition into the coalition when the war started. Gantz is one of the three ministers on the war cabinet formed to oversee the conflict, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

As the war has progressed, the war cabinet has reportedly been fraying, with Netanyahu clashing with other members and with the panel’s advisers.

  • Earlier this month, Gallant was said to have stormed out of a war cabinet meeting in a spat with the prime minister over who was permitted to sit in on the gathering.

Asked how they felt about the performance of the war cabinet, just 40.8 percent responded that it was either “very good” or “good enough.” Over half, 53.8%, said they were unsatisfied with the cabinet’s work, while 5.4% did not have an opinion.

  • Just over half of respondents, 54.7%, said that National Unity should remain in the government while 32.7% were in favor of it resigning. The remaining 12.6% said they don’t know what the party should do.

When it come to the possibility of a large-scale exchange to release all Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel in return for the hostages still captive in the Gaza Strip, most people (51.8% ) are against the idea, the poll found.

  • Just 39.5% backed such a deal, with 8.7% saying they didn’t know.

Similarly, just over half of the public (50.4%) think that there should already be an official investigation into how the October 7 onslaught happened, amid reports of intelligence and military failures that failed to spot the Hamas preparations even when warnings were given and soldiers and officers raised concerns.

There are also accusations that successive Israeli governments, mostly under Netanyahu, embraced the mistaken approach that Hamas was deterred from carrying out a major assault on the country.

Over a quarter of the public, 26.7%, strongly support an immediate probe, which was opposed by 42.6% of respondents, with seven percent saying they didn’t know. The government has been adamant that an official investigation committee should only be formed after the war is concluded.

Opinions on satisfying US demands about the war or maintaining independence were nearly even, with 41.6% saying Jerusalem should act in coordination with Washington, while 43% said Israel’s leadership should make its own decisions. Another 15.4% said they don’t know how Israel should address the issue.

Tensions have developed between Jerusalem and Washington over Palestinian civilian casualties and the vision for Gaza’s future once the fighting ends.

Another key issue is the return of southern residents to homes they evacuated due to the fighting.

The government is pushing to encourage a return in the coming weeks.

However, Hamas’s rocket fire, which began with the October 7 assault, has continued, with occasional barrages at communities near the border.

Half the poll respondents (50.1%) said residents should not be encouraged to return to their homes at the moment, while 37.9% felt they should. Another 12% did not have an opinion.

  • Most people see the war as continuing for some time, with 67.9% saying they think it will last for more than two months and 45.9% saying it will go on for more than four months.

Estimates of a month to two months (11%), two weeks to a month (2.7%) and just another two weeks (1.2%) were also recorded. However, 17.1% said they don’t know how much longer the war will go on. Government and military officials have spoken of the conflict continuing throughout 2024.

Over half of respondents said their news consumption has dropped compared with how much time they spent following events in the weeks immediately after October 7.

Overall, 83.2% believed that the Israeli public was standing up well to war, while 12.5% said it was not, and 4.3% said they didn’t know.

  • Rating the IDF’s performance in the war, 80.7% felt it was good while 16.2% said it was not good and 3.1% responded that they didn’t know. Since the start of a ground operation in Gaza, 219 IDF soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

The poll was conducted January 14-17 via the internet and by telephone. It sampled 502 people in Hebrew and a further 111 people in Arabic. The results have a 4.04% margin of error, the IDI said in its statement.

The war between Israel and Hamas erupted when the terror group carried out its unprecedented attack on October 7, which killed some 1,200 people in Israel’s south, mostly civilians. Terrorists who burst through the boundary with the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people who were taken into the Palestinian coastal enclave as hostages. Most of them are still being held.

Israel responded with a military campaign to oust Hamas from power in Gaza and release the hostages.

Source: TOI