According to two surveys conducted within the past week, the majority of the Israeli public opposes releasing terrorist prisoners with "blood on their hands" and that most Israelis favor a major military operation to break Hamas's stranglehold on Gaza.
A poll conducted Tuesday by the Hebrew-language Ma'ariv newspaper found some two-thirds of the Israeli public is adamantly opposed to freeing terrorist prisoners with "blood on their hands," even in exchange for IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Cpl. Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid by Hamas terrorists from Gaza in June 2006 and is believed to still be alive, held in an underground room in southern Gaza.
Hamas has repeatedly demanded the release of hundreds of terrorist convicts, including Tanzim leader and arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, as ransom for Shalit. Barghouti is serving five life sentences for murdering five Israeli citizens and wounding dozens more in various terrorist attacks.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed a Cabinet committee this week to review the government's criteria for freeing the criminals, including Barghouti, who is extremely popular among grassroots Palestinian Authority Arabs.
“Blood on their hands” currently applies to any terrorist who was involved in a fatal attack on Israelis, including the commander who gave the order, whether or not they personally carried out the attack. A terrorist who tried to kill Jews but failed is not labeled as having blood on his hands.
Israelis Favor Major Military Operation in Gaza
The majority of respondents in the Ma'ariv poll – 59 percent - also opposed conducting a hudna, or pause in hostilities with Hamas. Forty-six percent of respondents favored a large-scale invasion of Gaza by the IDF.
A different poll, conducted last week by Ma'agar Mochot (Brain Trust) came up with similar results. The December 19 survey found that 62 percent of respondents supported a military operation to break the Hamas terrorist group's stranglehold on Gaza.
The findings, released by IDF Army Radio this Tuesday, showed that only 26 percent of the Israeli public opposes a major IDF incursion into Gaza. The Ma'agar Mochot poll surveyed 509 Israeli adults on December 19 with a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Israeli officials on Sunday rejected overtures by Hamas to discuss a hudna, which many military experts believe would simply give the group time to regroup, after IDF operations slowed down intensified mortar rocket attacks by Gaza terrorists on Jewish communities in the western Negev.
"Hamas is considering a ceasefire because IDF operations are so successful," Barak told reporters. Escalated air strikes and targeted attacks against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist leaders and strongholds eliminated more than 20 operatives last week.
"There is no other way to describe what's happening here other than as a real war between the army and the terrorist groups," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "This war will continue all the while [with Israel] taking precautions to avoid a humanitarian crisis that could hurt civilians who are not involved at all in terror."