Opinion polls released in Israel on Friday show diminished support for the Israeli government's conduct of combat operations in Lebanon. The polls came as Israel's Prime Minister ordered the Israeli army to prepare to launch an expansion of its ground operations in Lebanon.
According to a new poll in the Haaretz newspaper, only about 20 percent of Israelis believe they are winning the war against Hezbollah, while 43 percent believe that Israel and Hezbollah will both emerge from the conflict in a stalemate.
The Haaretz poll also shows support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dramatically sinking. Only 48 percent of those polled support Mr. Olmert's handling of the conflict with Hezbollah, down from 75 percent at the beginning of hostilities. A poll in the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth shows a smaller margin of slippage, with support for the prime minister dropping from 73 to 66 percent. Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center says Israelis tend to expect decisive results from their wartime leaders.
"The problem is that people expected this to be over with soon," he noted. "That the army would deal a crushing blow, and that the air force and the infantry would go in and do what needs to be done. I think the general public perception is that there has been too much dilly-dallying [taking too much time] and not enough decisive action, and I think that kind of reflects how people are feeling, that this has taken a month already."
Israeli ground troops appear to be increasingly bogged down in Lebanon. Hezbollah militants using sophisticated anti-tank missiles are inflicting a growing number of casualties. The commander of Israel's Northern Command, responsible for ground operations in Lebanon, was replaced a few days ago, and there has been mounting criticism of the massive bombing by Israel's Air Force, which has so far been unable to deliver a crushing blow to Hezbollah's ability to launch rockets into Israel.
Joshua Teitelbuam says Israel's experience in Lebanon over the years has come back to haunt the nation time and time again.
"What people are feeling is that Israel itself has its own Lebanon syndrome, similar to the Vietnam syndrome that existed in the American military after the war. There was a lot of hesitancy here and that is responsible for a lot of the problems," he added.
Prime Minister Olmert late Friday ordered the Israeli Army to launch its much-anticipated expansion of the ground offensive. Israeli newspapers and television stations have reported that commanders in Israel's Defense Forces have expressed grave misgivings over the past few days about the proposed U.N. cease-fire in Lebanon.