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Cablegate: Israel: Post-Traumatic Stress in Post-Ceasefire Polls

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Carol X Weakley 08/21/2006 04:42:58 PM From DB/Inbox: Carol X Weakley

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS TEL AVIV 03272

SIPDIS
CXTelA:
ACTION: POL
INFO: IPSC PD IMO RES ECON DCM DAO AMB ADM AID CONS
RSO

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: CDA:GACRETZ
DRAFTED: POL:RBLAUKOPF
CLEARED: POL:NOLSEN

VZCZCTVI652
RR RUEHC RUEHXK
DE RUEHTV #3272/01 2300539
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180539Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5714
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 003272

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TAGS: PGOV PINR IS

SUBJECT: ISRAEL: POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS IN POST-CEASEFIRE POLLS


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. Precisely 48 hours after implementation of the Lebanon ceasefire
prime-time Israel Radio was offering a hotline to traumatized
victims of the month-long Hizballah bombardment of northern Israel,
but poll results from the center of the country, show that those
outside the bombardment zone are also stressed, and are ready to
take out their anger on Israel's political leaders, rather than its
military leaders. According to these polls, the public perception
of the political leadership's failed performance will translate into
a shift to the right in the next elections, primarily, but not
exclusively, at the expense of Kadima's coalition partner, the Labor
party. Pending those elections, whether early or on schedule in
2010, the current polls suggest individual politicians may pay a
personal price. END SUMMARY.

-------------------
MARKED FOR FAILURE?
-------------------

2. Earlier this year, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert surprised the pundits
by handing the defense portfolio to his principal coalition partner
and Labor Party chief, Amir Peretz. Political observers broadly
concluded that the Israeli prime minister was motivated by a desire
to neutralize Peretz on economic and domestic policy -- areas in
which he is a known militant of some expertise. The general
perception was that the new DefMin's greatest test would come over
the issue of Olmert's promised "realignment" within the West Bank.
The working assumption was that whether he succeeded or failed,
Peretz would be kept busy, and that major policy decisions
concerning defense would be left to Olmert and his close advisors.
No experts were heard theorizing that in the event of a military
fiasco or even a minor setback, Peretz would usefully -- from
Olmert's perspective -- take the fall. But the first post-ceasefire
polls suggest just that.

----------------------
LET THE IDF DO THE JOB
----------------------

3. When Yediot's post-ceasefire Dachaf poll asked an unspecified
number of adult Jewish Israelis how they rated Peretz's performance
throughout the fighting, only 36 percent said it had been good, as
compared with 63 percent who said it had not been good. Yediot's
poll yielded less dramatic but nonetheless unflattering results for
PM Olmert's, with a majority 51 percent of those polled labeling his
performance "not good," as compared with 47 percent, who rated it
"good".

4. Ma'ariv's Teleseker poll was more informative on both counts,
showing a curve in Peretz's public fortunes with an initial 28
percent of those polled prior to the hostilities expressing
satisfaction with his performance as DefMin, rising to 61 percent at
the end of the first week of the Israel-Hizballah conflict, and
slamming back to 28 percent the day after the ceasefire. The same
poll showed different figures but a similar curve for PM Olmert --
whose public standing stood at only 43 percent approval among those
polled prior to the hostilities, rising to 78 percent at the close
of the first week of the conflict, and falling back below its
starting point to 40 percent the day after the ceasefire.

5. Both the Ma'ariv and Yediot polls suggest that A) public ratings
of both PM Olmert and DefMin Peretz were uniformly low prior to the
crisis in Lebanon, and B) the perceived progress of hostilities had
considerable impact on the evolution of public attitudes. While
there were few successes at any time during the conflict to justify
the polled surge of public support after the first week of
hostilities, it now appears that both ministers were temporary
beneficiaries of a degree of "credit" extended by the Israeli public
to facilitate completion of what it saw as the task of the military.
It was this "credit" that was decimated by the political
leadership's acceptance of the ceasefire under terms that the public
sees as failing to have achieved most, perhaps any, of Israel's
originally stated objectives.

----------------------
WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED
----------------------

6. Both polls found similar results on the issue of the ceasefire.
Yediot asked whether Israel should have agreed to it without the
return of the kidnapped IDF soldiers, and an overwhelming 70 percent
of those polled responded in the negative, with only 27 percent
dissenting from this view. When Ma'ariv asked the same question --
while eliminating any mention of the kidnapped soldiers -- the
response was less dramatic but still decisive: 53 percent said
Israel should have continued to fight, while 42 percent favored
agreement. Asked to evaluate the outcome of the fighting, those
polled by Yediot and Ma'ariv produced a consensus that there were no
clear victors. Of those polled, 36 percent told Yediot that neither
side won, while 30 percent gave victory to Israel and a matching 30
percent said Hizballah. Ma'ariv found 18 percent of those polled
giving the edge to Israel, while 15 percent saw Hizballah in the
lead -- all of which was mitigated by the overwhelming 66 percent
that offered the conclusion that nobody won.
----------------
SOMEONE MUST PAY
----------------

7. Amid much talk -- so far indecisive in its conclusions as to the
need and usefulness of a commission of inquiry into the conduct of
the hostilities and their outcome -- the focus is sharpening in
regard to individual members of the political and military
leaderships. Ma'ariv's poll questions stopped short of the issue of
resignations, but asked who is responsible for the perceived
failures in the conduct of the fighting. Of those polled, 49
percent responded by naming PM Olmert. DefMin Peretz was held
responsible by 41 percent of those polled, as compared with the IDF
Chief of Staff, LTG Halutz -- named by 40 percent. This could
change, however, in light of subsequent revelations that LTG Halutz
sold his investment portfolio three hours after the kidnapping of
the IDF soldiers and simultaneously with the initial incursion of
the IDF into Lebanese territory. Yediot tackled the resignation
issue only to find greater public leniency toward PM Olmert -- whom
only 41 percent thought should resign. The IDF Chief of Staff was
marginally more vulnerable with 42 percent demanding his
resignation. Way ahead of them, DefMin Peretz was clearly
identified as expendable by a majority of 57 percent who thought he
should forfeit his ministerial office.

-----------------------------
TOO EARLY FOR EARLY ELECTIONS
-----------------------------

8. Could a commission of inquiry avert early elections? Many, not
least in PM Olmert's Kadima party, may devoutly wish this to be so.
According to both Ma'ariv and Yediot's pollsters, a majority of the
public -- 67 percent and 69 percent respectively -- are in favor of
the appointment of a commission of inquiry. Only the government is
empowered to appoint a commission of inquiry -- in this case of
itself -- and a commission's work would be of long duration and
therefore liable to be overtaken by events -- so establishing such a
commission is not likely to satisfy a public anxious to know why its
sons had to fight and die to reach an outcome that most voters say
achieved little or nothing for Israel. That leaves the prospect of
elections, which polling indicates would take the country to the
political right, primarily at the expense of Kadima's major
coalition partner, the Labor Party of Amir Peretz.

9. Ma'ariv's poll question on how its respondents would vote in a
new election found with surprising results: Kadima maintains its 29
seats in the legislature, Labor drops to 15 from its present 19, and
Likud picks up seats from Labor, from Shas (which goes down to 10
from 12) and from the Pensioners (who forfeit two of their seven
seats). Likud's hypothetical 20 seats may not spell an outright
leadership challenge but are just sufficient, according to Ma'ariv's
results, for the formation of a slim majority coalition by current
opposition parties and with the participation of Shas. While this
scenario may be premature, it is sufficiently realistic to give new
impetus to the efforts of Likud and its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu,
who this week replaced Amir Peretz in the public perception as PM
Ehud Olmert's major political rival.

10. At the same time, in addition to the Halutz classic act of bad
judgment, there are mini-storms brewing over Olmert and his wife's
financial transactions in buying a luxury apartment, sexual assault
accusations against President Katzav and Justice Minister Ramon, and
a job-appointment scandal involving Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi. Where
these individually or collectively will impact the stability of the
current government remains to be seen.

#Cretz

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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