Netanyahu loses support at polls over truce with terrorists
ISRAEL'S Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political ratings have plummeted after the ceasefire struck with Hamas in Gaza according to a new poll and he was dubbed a "loser" by his own troops.
The survey by Israel's Maariv newspaper, the first since the truce took hold on Wednesday, said the newly merged party of Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Likud Beitenu, would take only 37 of the 120 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the election January 22. A poll taken before the eight-day conflict suggested they would win 43 seats.
It said that 31 percent of Israelis approved of the ceasefire while 49 percent were opposed. Asked if the army should have re-occupied Gaza, 41 percent were against and 29 percent in favour.
Both Israel and Hamas claimed victory after a truce brokered by Egypt and the US brought an end to the week-long bombardment over the Gaza border. But Mr Netanyahu faced allegations that he had boosted the popularity of Hamas without achieving his military goals.
"Deterrence was not restored," said Shaul Mofaz, head of the centre-Right Kadima party, rival to Mr Netanyahu's Likud.
"There was no resolution. Hamas achieved exactly what it wanted. There is no security for the residents of southern Israel and of central Israel."
However, Mr Netanyahu's handling of the operation was praised by security experts.
"There was no decisive victory here," said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser. "But the situation was managed in the right way and it was clear that Israel enjoyed certain international support."
But there were protests in the southern towns that bore the brunt of the almost 1,500 rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups – almost exactly the same number as Israel fired.
"We've suffered for eight days and we can suffer for two weeks if they can put an end to it once and for all," said Ziva Shmuelov, a resident of the desert town of Beersheva, which was hit by hundreds of rockets during the conflict.
Members of an infantry unit claimed they were twice given orders to advance into Gaza – once actually opening the border gates – before being told to stand down. "It's like crying wolf," said one soldier.
In one photograph much circulated on the internet, reservists on the Gaza frontline spelled out the words "Bibi Loser" with their own bodies and posted the picture on Facebook.
Mr Netanyahu's own Facebook page was inundated by thousands of comments denouncing his leadership and promises to vote against Likud in elections due on January 22.
"Shame on you, you embarrassingly capitulated to terror," said one post.
Mr Netanyahu was backed by President Barack Obama, who phoned to congratulate him.
"The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which the president recommended," a White House statement said.
Under the truce, negotiations will now begin to meet Hamas's demands for an easing of Israel's blockade of Gaza. In return, Israel is asking Egypt to guarantee an end to the rearming of Hamas and other militant groups. (© Daily Telegraph, London)