The public is evenly divided between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's realignment plan, according to a new poll published by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University.
A majority of Israelis do not think the country can set its permanent borders unilaterally without the support of the United States and the international community. Nevertheless, a large majority believe that if the realignment plan is adopted, Israel can implement it.
Only 39% think Israel will be able to determine its borders unilaterally if this does not gain international and American support, whereas the majority (55%) says it cannot do so without such support. On this point a majority of voters for all the parties agree, with the exception of Shas supporters.
Olmert's position regarding the immediate need for setting permanent borders has considerable public support. There is a broad consensus among the Jewish public that it is very important for Israel to have permanent borders, and that Israel has a moral right to decide on such borders even without coordination with the Palestinians.
These are the main findings of the Peace Index survey that was carried out from May 29-31. The project is conducted monthly at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Studies and the Evans Program for Conflict Resolution Research of Tel Aviv University.
If the choice is between more territory or less Palestinian population, there is a clear preference that less West Bank land be annexed if this means fewer Palestinian residents in Israel.
If territorial exchanges are to be carried out, the public unequivocally prefers ceding the Arab-populated Triangle to giving up unpopulated areas of the Negev. There is also broad public support for the High Court of Justice's ruling that Israel does not have to grant citizenship to Palestinians who have married Israelis.
A large majority - 75.5% - think, similar to the stance Olmert presented in Washington, that it is very important for Israel to have permanent borders. Only in the National Religious Party/National Union is there a majority opposed to this approach (58%).
How to arrive at these permanent borders is more controversial, since the realignment plan includes an extensive settlement evacuation. Here 47% indeed favor the plan, but 44% oppose it - a parity that did not exist regarding Sharon's disengagement plan even when support for it was at its lowest.
Support for the plan is headed by Meretz voter (94%), followed by Labor (78%), Gil Pensioners (73%) and Kadima (63%). Opponents have a majority among those who voted for United Torah Judaism (92%), Israel Beiteinu (68%) and Shas (67%), and also among Likud voters (64.5%).
A large majority of 70% believe that Israel has the moral right to unilaterally determine its permanent borders.
If territorial exchange is decided upon, a high proportion - 46% - favor giving territory from the Triangle, including Umm el-Fahm and other Arab Israeli towns, and only 15% prefer ceding unpopulated areas of the Western Negev. Even among Meretz voters, for whom support for transferring empty lands - 29% - is highest among all the parties, a higher proportion favor giving up the Triangle - 35%.
The Jewish public shows a clear preference - 59% - for retaining as few Palestinians as possible, with just one-fourth opting for annexing more land even if that means increasing the number of Palestinians living in Israel. The Jewish public showed sweeping support - 70% - for the High Court ruling that Israel does not have to grant citizenship to Palestinians who have married Israelis.
The poll consisted of 593 telephone interviews representing the adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel - including the territories and the kibbutzim. The sampling error is about 4.5% in either direction.
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