Polls Show Israeli Public Support for War Against Hezbollah is Slipping

Israel's government is losing domestic support for its conduct of the conflict against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, and doubt is growing among Israelis that they are winning the war, according to polls published Friday.

Hezbollah renewed its rocket attacks on Israel after dawn Friday, firing a barrage of missiles at the port city of Haifa and elsewhere in northern Israel, police said. Rescue authorities said two Haifa residents were injured by shrapnel.

Israel said a reserve soldier was killed by anti-tank fire overnight in the southern Lebanese village of Labuneh, raising the number of soldiers killed to 84 since the fighting erupted July 12. Hezbollah rockets also have killed 38 civilians.

The army's failure to end incessant attacks is likely one reason for the drop in the government's popularity figures.

A poll in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper showed 37 percent of the 500 people questioned believed Israel would cripple Hezbollah, compared with 40 percent in a previous survey. Seventeen percent thought Israel would lose the war and Hezbollah would return to south Lebanon, up from 13 percent previously, said the poll conducted by the Dahaf organization. It had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

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The percentage of people supporting a broad ground operation to push Hezbollah guerrillas beyond the range of short-range rockets fell to 64 percent from 73 percent, the poll said, indicating a growing public desire for diplomatic initiatives.

On Wednesday, the Security Cabinet gave Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the authority to send more troops into south Lebanon. Officials said Israel will hold off on any new offensive for a few days for diplomatic efforts to play out at the U.N. Security Council, where the United States and France were working on a cease-fire resolution that could come to a vote as early as Friday.

The Dahaf survey showed Olmert's personal approval rating fell to 66 percent from 73 percent.

Another poll of 570 Israelis, conducted by Dialogue for the Haaretz daily, said just one Israeli in five believes that if the war ended now, it could be considered a victory, while 30 percent said Israel is losing the war and 44 percent said neither side would emerge a winner. The poll's margin of error was 4.8 percent.

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Though the Security Cabinet vote overwhelmingly approved broadening ground operations — nine in favor with three abstentions — reports indicate that divisions run deeper in Olmert's inner circle. Haaretz reported Olmert vetoed an appearance at the Security Council by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has been counseling military restraint and greater attention to diplomacy.

On Thursday, three of Israel's most successful authors and intellectuals — Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua — joined together to urge Olmert to respond positively to an initiative by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora offering to deploy the Lebanese army to southern Lebanon, aided by an international force, and an exchange of prisoners.

"Israel was right when it chose to respond with force to Hezbollah's violent provocation," said Oz, an eloquent voice of the Israeli left. But the Lebanese plan "was not only a turning point, it was a victory for Israel's basic demand," Oz said. Israel should have told Saniora his plan was a good basis for negotiation and halted its offensive.

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