Israel's new right-wing government is about to complete its first 100
days in power, a period marked by tension with Washington over how to
advance the peace process with the Palestinians. But the Israeli public
is showing cautious support for the nation's new leader.
marking hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first 100 days in
office gives him positive marks despite a deepening dispute with the
United States over Jewish settlements. Mr. Netanyahu enjoys a 49
percent approval rating, according to the poll published in the Israeli
newspaper Ha'aretz. That is much higher than his dovish predecessor
Ehud Olmert, who offered major territorial concessions to the
Mr. Netanyahu also scored 18 points higher than the woman
he narrowly defeated in February elections-former Foreign Minister
Tzipi Livni, a strong advocate of Palestinian statehood.
U.S. pressure, Mr. Netanyahu reluctantly endorsed the concept of a
Palestinian state last month, but with tough conditions that were
flatly rejected by the Palestinians.
David Stern, a man on the street here in Jerusalem, supports the prime minister's cautious approach.
don't actually expect that there will be a Palestinian state, not
because of Israel's recalcitrance but because Palestinians don't seem
to really want it," he said. "They want a state instead of Israel, not
a state alongside Israel."
Mr. Netanyahu's support for
settlement expansion has strained Israel's all-important relations with
Washington. But Israeli analyst Mitchell Barak says the prime minister
has managed to walk a tightrope between U.S. pressure and the demands
of his nationalist coalition partners.
Barak says Mr.
Netanyahu has made concessions: Israel says it will not build new
settlements, but will only allow "natural growth," and there are plans
to dismantle about two dozen illegal settlement outposts in the West
"So that was a very big step-I think unfortunately that
the U.S. didn't see it as such a big step. And he was able to get his
coalition to agree to that and to not attack him. So from that point of
view I would give him a good score," he said.
public is divided on the settlement issue: The poll showed that 46
percent of respondents support continuing construction in the West Bank
even if it means a confrontation with the U.S. - 44 percent were opposed.