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Polls conducted when Ariel Sharon was prime minister found that support for a significant withdrawal from the West Bank hit its peak at the height of the Palestinian wave of violence in the spring of 2002, Channel 10's Raviv Drucker reported Tuesday.
Drucker learned the information after the Movement for Freedom of Information won a court case that required the Prime Minister's Office to publish surveys taken on Sharon's behalf by his pollster Kalman Geyer, who also worked for former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In the polls, Geyer regularly asked Israelis whether they would support a final-status accord, in which Israel would annex four percent of the West Bank and give the Palestinians 96%, as well as 2% of pre-1967 Israel near the Gaza Strip. Israel would also accept 50,000 Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem's Old City would be divided.
The polls found that support for the potential accord fell from 73% in March 2002 to 44% during the disengagement from Gaza in August 2005. Drucker said the support for a West Bank pullout during the Palestinian terror spree proved that terrorism was successful in persuading Israelis to withdraw from territory.
Geyer, however, told The Jerusalem Post that he had explained the polls differently to Sharon. He said it was not terrorist attacks that determined whether Israelis supported pullouts, but the IDF's ability to handle terror.
"The polls show rationally that when Israelis see the IDF doesn't have an answer, they are ready to leave the territories," Geyer said. "Support for withdrawals falls when the IDF succeeds in dealing with terror."
Geyer stressed that the polls had been taken in case Sharon needed them and not at his orders. He said the polls did not indicate that this would have been Sharon's diplomatic plan had he returned to the Prime Minister's Office after last year's election.
The polls also found that Sharon's popularity fell below six on a scale of one to 10 just twice. One time was during the Palestinian wave of violence, just ahead of when Sharon responded with Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank.
The other time was when Yasser Arafat forced Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas out of his job as PA prime minister in October 2003, shortly before Sharon unveiled his disengagement plans at the Herzliya Conference.
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