Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Olmert's popularity plunges in Israel - poll," Reuters, 11 August 2006.

JERUSALEM, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Rising Israeli casualties and constant Hizbollah rocket attacks have sharply eroded public support in Israel for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defence minister, an opinion poll showed on Friday.

The survey in the Haaretz newspaper found only 48 percent of Israelis were satisfied with Olmert's performance compared with popularity ratings of more than 75 percent in polls taken in the early stages of fighting against the Lebanese group.

Public support for Defence Minister Amir Peretz fell from 65 percent to 37 percent, the survey showed.

Commentary accompanying the survey said the continuing hostilities, which began on July 12 after Hizbollah seized two soldiers in a cross-border raid, mounting Israeli casualties and daily rocket attacks were to blame for the drops in popularity.

The war has killed 122 Israelis and at least 1,011 people in Lebanon.

Hizbollah has fired more than 3,400 rockets at northern Israel in the war. The rockets have paralysed life in a region that is home to one million people, driving one third of them to flee while many others are holed up indoors or in bomb shelters.

Against a backdrop of intensified international diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting, only some 20 percent of those polled said Israel could claim victory if the war ended now.

The poll found 39 percent of Israelis supported a decision by Olmert's security cabinet on Wednesday to send troops deeper into southern Lebanon to battle Hizbollah, an operation since put on hold to give diplomacy more time.

But between 26 percent and 28 percent said they preferred either to continue the current level of fighting, along with the pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the conflict, or strive for an immediate ceasefire.

Olmert, who won election in March, heads the centrist Kadima party. Peretz is the leader of the centre-left Labour Party, Olmert's main partner in a coalition government.
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