Over half of Israelis believe that Israel's recent attack on the Gaza Strip was too weak, while only three per cent thought it constituted an excessive approach.
The poll – which was published by Israel's public broadcaster Kan this morning – found that 53 per cent of respondents think Israel's attack on Gaza in the past few days was "too weak". Only three per cent said Israel's response was "excessive", while 29 per cent said Israel's response was "sufficient without being excessive," Arutz Sheva reported.
The poll also found that Israelis were divided over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's performance throughout the attack, with only 24 per cent of Israelis characterising his performance as "good". A further 33 per cent said it was "poor", while 33 per cent gave the prime minister a "moderate" rating.
This comes after Israel on Monday launched an attack on the already-besieged Gaza Strip, continuing to bombard the coastal enclave throughout the week. In what the Israeli army claimed to be a response to a rocket fired from Gaza at a town north of Tel Aviv, Israel sent two army brigades – amounting to over 1,000 soldiers – to the Gaza fence and called up reservists from aerial units in preparation for air strikes.
It also locked down the Strip, closing the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) and Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossings – which allow goods and medical supplies into Gaza – and reduced the fishing zone it imposes off the Strip's Mediterranean coast.
This was followed by a series of intense bombardments of Gaza which saw multiple buildings destroyed, including a mosque and the office of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas which governs the enclave. Images of the destruction have since revealed that, contrary to the Israeli army's claims to have only targeted military positions, civilian infrastructure including Palestinians' homes was also hit. Palestine's Public Works Minister, Mufeed Al-Hasayneh, announced today that "30 houses were completely destroyed and 500 houses were damaged" across Gaza.
That the majority of Israelis viewed Israel's strikes on Gaza as "weak" should come as little surprise given the rhetoric employed by Israeli politicians in the past few days. With less than two weeks to go before the upcoming general election on 9 April, candidates have been quick to use the attack on Gaza for their own political agendas.
Israel's Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked – who co-lead the New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) party – this week called for the bombardment of Gaza to be intensified. For his part, Bennett appeared to advocate for bombing civilians and carrying out targeted assassinations, saying: "Bombing an empty building and then feeling good, as if this is what is deterring Hamas, is nonsense, it does not work."
Meanwhile, Shaked said that "[Israel] must not contain and pay Hamas protection money. They have to be afraid of us. They have to be deterred and we should not allow this rampage to happen."
That over a third of Israelis think Netanyahu's handling of the attack on Gaza was "poor" will be a blow to the incumbent prime minister, who many commentators believe hoped to use the crisis to prove himself able to be "tough" on Gaza and Hamas. Netanyahu – who is also Israel's defence minister – cut short his two-day trip to the US to deal with the situation, immediately convening a meeting with the Israeli defence establishment upon his return.
Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference via video link from Israel yesterday, Netanyahu said: "We responded with great force [but] I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more. We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state." Since then Israel's attack on Gaza has slowed, though a number of air strikes took place near Rafah, in the south of the Strip, were carried out last night.
There are fears that Israel could re-start its assault later this week, as tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather at the border fence this weekend for the first anniversary of the Great March of Return.