Source AP ©

Ehud Olmert uses airstrikes to raise his popularity in Israel

According to new opinion poll, rating of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's has led to a big after reports Sept. 6 airstrike in northern Syria that Israel has not acknowledged.

The Dahaf Research Institute said 35 percent of people questioned were pleased with Olmert's performance, up from 25 percent on Sept. 7 - just after reports of the airstrike emerged.

Twenty percent of the respondents said the operation improved their opinion of Olmert. Seventy percent said their opinion remain unchanged, according to the poll of 441 people, which had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Israel has clamped a news blackout on the raid, which Syria announced and U.S. officials have confirmed. Foreign media reports have suggested Israel struck a nuclear facility in Syria built with North Korean technology, or Iranian arms destined for Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Olmert's approval ratings have been battered over the past year by last summer's flawed war against Hezbollah and a series of corruption allegations. In March, he declared himself to be an unpopular leader, but insisted he would continue to lead.

On Monday, Olmert said Israel was prepared for peace negotiations with Syria under the right conditions but refused to answer questions about the reported attack.

"I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and for Syrian policy. They have internal problems, but we have no reason to rule out dialogue with Syria," Olmert was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily.

Olmert has made the same offer of peace talks many times in the past, but this was the first time he has mentioned Syria since the reported airstrike. In 2000, Israel-Syria talks neared agreement but broke down over final border and peace arrangements.