Is the Jordan Valley more vital than the Temple Mount?
Survey shows Israelis oppose giving up strategic areas - but the Temple Mt. is another story.
By REBECCA STOIL
According to the results of a new survey on territorial concessions, security and the peace process, Israelis are overwhelmingly opposed to returning key areas popularly perceived as strategically important.
In spite of that, the survey - conducted by Mina Tzemah and commissioned by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs's Defensible Borders Project - indicated that the majority of Israelis believe that the pullout from Gaza was "the right step," but less than one out of five support continuing a policy of unilateral disengagements.
When asked about specific territorial assets, the 500 respondents showed a preference for retaining strategic areas.
Almost 80 percent of those surveyed said that they opposed "conceding the Jordan Valley" - an area viewed as a buffer zone between Israel and Jordan - as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Similarly, 93% of respondents said, "in the context of a peace agreement, Israel must not give the Palestinians the territories that topographically dominate Ben-Gurion airport."
In contrast, a slim majority, 53% to 47%, responded that as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, they would be willing to pass the Temple Mount to international control, as long as Israel maintained control of the Western Wall. The margin of error for the survey was 4.5%.
In a poll conducted earlier this month - also by Mina Tzemah - similar proportions of Israelis said that they would support a compromise in which Jerusalem's majority-Arab neighborhoods would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority, on the condition that the Western Wall remain under Israeli control. That poll found Israelis to be tied - 49% percent on both sides - on that question.
Earlier this week, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu kicked off his campaign for a unified Likud by explicitly opposing the very same territorial concessions mentioned in Zemah's survey. Netanyahu said that unlike the other parties, the Likud supported "defensible borders for Israel," which he said would include the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, an undivided Jerusalem, settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria and the hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport, the Gush Dan region and Route 443.
In November, Lior Chorev, a top aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, expressed fears that public support for retaining the Jordan Valley was waning because people who believed in the area's strategic value had failed to make their case effectively before the Israeli political center.
Chorev told audiences at the College of Judea and Samaria that "if we ask how many Israelis today feel connected to the Jordan Valley, the answer is very disturbing.
"If you don't convince the public every morning that the Jordan Valley is important - and not because Yigal Alon said so 30 years ago or because of the theological perspective - we will lose the battle," Chorev said.
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