Israelis show overwhelming support for Operation Protective Edge

Polls find 95% of Jewish Israelis believe military action in Gaza is necessary

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 01:00

Israel always pulls together in a time of conflict; such a closing of ranks is only natural. However, this time around the level of public backing for the military action is overwhelming.

In three consecutive surveys, the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, found that 95 per cent of Jewish Israelis considered Operation Protective Edge to be justified. Fewer than 4 per cent believed the military was using excessive firepower.

Such overwhelming support for military action is probably unprecedented in a democracy, and is particularly remarkable when we bear in mind that Israelis are deeply divided on almost all other major issues.

So, how can we explain the national consensus?

Under attack

Let’s start with Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel and the threat of Hamas tunnel incursions. Israelis believe they are under attack from an Islamic fundamentalist organisation dedicated to destroying Israel, which sees the very existence of a Jewish state as anathema.

Tzipi Livni, the most dovish minister in the Israeli cabinet, justified the decision to go to war.

“This is the time for us to unite around the understanding that terror must be fought. This is a tough war, but a necessary one.”

The aerial bombardment began after militant rocket fire sent half a million residents of southern Israel into bomb shelters.

However, early on during the campaign a more palpable threat emerged. Television footage of a dozen camouflaged Hamas fighters emerging from a tunnel and crawling towards a nearby kibbutz sent shivers down the spines of Israelis.

The consensus was that a ground offensive was now imperative and, whatever the cost, troops had to eliminate the tunnels.

Without such a scenario, life for Israeli residents along the border would simply be intolerable and no government can allow its citizens to live in constant fear.

“We see behind us the chimneys of the power plant in Ashkelon and the houses of the kibbutzim,” one tank commander said. “It’s clear to us why we’re inside.”

An estimated 60 per cent of the residents of the border communities have left the area for the duration of the war. The public understands it would be unfair to expect them to return if all the Hamas tunnels are not blown up.

Most Israelis regret the death of Gaza civilians but blame Hamas.

In a small, close-knit country, where military service is mandatory and tens of thousands of reservists have been called up, every family now knows someone “bifnim”, Hebrew for inside, meaning inside Gaza.

Israelis remain glued to their radios and televisions. Life goes on, but everyone is constantly thinking about one thing.

The deaths of those in uniform is considered just as tragic as civilian fatalities, and there is that awful lump in the throat just before the names of the latest fatalities are announced.

Israelis have come out in their thousands to attend the funerals of the fallen, often for people they didn’t know.