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Polls Show Sinking Support for Israel's Government


Opinion polls released in Israel Friday show diminished support for how Israel's government is conducting combat operations in Lebanon. Israel's military is continuing attacks in Lebanon, while at the same time holding off on a major new offensive, to give diplomacy a chance to bring about a cease-fire.

According to a new poll, only about 20-percent of Israelis believe they are winning the war against the militant group, Hezbollah, while 43 percent believe that Israel and Hezbollah will both emerge from the conflict in a stalemate.

A poll in the Haaretz newspaper 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 military leaders.

"The problem is that people expected this to be over with soon, 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 have become 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 Teitelbaum 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."

Israeli newspapers and television stations are reporting that commanders in Israel's Defense Forces are expressing grave misgivings about the proposed cease-fire in Lebanon, now being considered at the U.N., that would likely have Lebanon's army and a significantly expanded United Nations force replace Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon.

Israeli Army Commanders are also reportedly angry at having to wait and see if diplomats at the U.N. can implement a cease-fire, while they have been asked to stand by and delay expanding their ground operations in Lebanon.

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