Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suffering a massive drop in his poll numbers as the war with Hamas rages on–and as impatience grows among the Israeli public for the military to bring quiet to the country by removing Hamas as a threat. A poll conducted Aug. 25 showed Netanyahu’s approval ratings at only 38%–after hitting a peak of 82% in late July, at the outset of the war–with his disapproval rating reaching 50%.
While few details on the poll are available, the overall mood in Israel appears to be one of frustration as a war that enjoyed wide support on the eve of a ground invasion has become an aerial battle, with residents near the Gaza border fleeing despite the protection offered by the Iron Dome system. The war-weary public is not simply tired of fighting, but rather tired of a perceived lack of commitment to victory by the country’s political leaders.
One major factor is pressure from President Barack Obama, who has insisted on a ceasefire throughout the war, even one that would leave Hamas’s terror tunnel infrastructure and its rocket arsenal intact. The prospect of losing American support and arms shipments has forced Netanyahu’s government to take the pace of the war slowly and to focus on abortive negotiations with the Palestinians rather than on defeating the terrorist threat.
In addition, there is some evidence that Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon believe that military victory alone may not actually be a solution to the problems facing Israel from Gaza, and that it would be better to have a weakened, depleted Hamas still holding onto power rather than an Israeli re-occupation. The Netanyahu government is also wary of any moves that would invite Hezbollah to join the fray from Lebanon.
Meanwhile, a quiet alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which has been germinating for years in reaction to the common threats of a nuclear Iran and Sunni extremism, is now emerging into the open. Saudi foreign minister Saud bin Faisal Al Saud reportedly suggested last week that the Arab world should stop cultivating hatred against Israel and should seek to normalize relations with the Jewish state for the sake of the region.
Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are thought to be eager to see Hamas defeated if possible and deposed if necessary as other powers, notably Qatar, attempt to make their mark in the region by stepping in to fund extremist terror groups. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has alienated itself from the emerging Egypt-Saudi-Israeli alliance by continuing to court Qatar and Turkey, both of which have supported Hamas throughout the conflict.