THE LEVANT – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Israel achieved a “great military and political” victory over Hamas in the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip has met with skepticism from many Israelis, according to a poll published Thursday.
The poll, published in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, shows that 54 percent of those surveyed believe there was no clear winner in the 50 days of war. The fighting killed 2,143 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian health officials and U.N. officials. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers, five civilians and a Thai worker were killed.
The poll underscores the unease pervading Israeli society after the third round of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Islamic militants in the seven years since Hamas took control of the densely populated coastal strip.
Some of Netanyahu’s detractors, including ministers in his own government like veteran security hawk Uzi Landau, believe that the prime minister and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon did not go far enough in pursuing the war, insisting that they should not have stopped until Hamas was destroyed or pleaded for peace.
Others, particularly residents of hard-hit agricultural communities abutting the Gaza border, fear that without a clear political roadmap for the Palestinian territory’s future, a resumption of the rocket and mortar fire that caused such considerable disruption to their lives for most of the summer is not so much a question of if, but rather of when.
Still, calm has prevailed since the two sides agreed on Tuesday to an open-ended truce, settling for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange.
Hamas, though badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt are to continue to control access to the blockaded coastal strip despite Hamas’ long-running demand that the border closures imposed in 2007 be lifted.
A former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said the war’s results “were disappointing and were accompanied by what some have described as a sense of sourness.”
“The cease-fire that was achieved with Hamas has left the Israeli public frustrated,” Diskin wrote in a commentary published in the popular Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Thursday.
The Haaretz poll questioned 464 Israelis on Wednesday and had a margin of error of 4.6 percent. While 54 percent said there was no clear-cut winner, some 25 percent of respondents said Israel had won the war, while 16 percent believed Hamas had prevailed. The remaining 5 percent of those surveyed were undecided. The paper did not say how the survey was conducted.
Later that night in a nationally televised speech, Netanyahu said that Israel had dealt Hamas “a heavy blow.”
“With the implementation of the cease-fire, I can say that there is a great military and political achievement here for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas was hit hard and it received not one of the demands it set forth for a cease-fire, not one.”
Netanyahu also said Israel “will not tolerate” any more of the Hamas rocket fire that started the war on July 8, and would respond “even harder” if attacks resume.