Livni, Ramon defend realignment plan

Poll indicates 49% of public opposed to plan, 38% in favor, 17% unsure.

livni sits 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni sits 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Justice Minister Haim Ramon came to the defense of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's realignment plan Thursday, a day after three other Kadima ministers questioned its relevance in light of the recent events in Gaza. Livni, speaking at a Reut Institute Conference in Herzliya, said that she did not think that the "last few days have changed everything." "I don't see in the last month a reason to retreat from my overriding goal," Livni said, defining that goal as a two-state solution that would ensure Israel remain a Jewish and democratic state. She said that the recent events had not convinced her that Israel was better off with a "stagnant" status quo, although she said the country needed to push forward a process that did take into consideration "what is happening on the other side." Livni said that a debate on realignment was premature, since the details of the plan had not been spelled out. She said that her ministry was mapping out what Israel's strategic, demographic and religious/historical interests were, which it would want to preserve regardless of whether Israel took unilateral steps in the West Bank or sat down to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians. Ramon, speaking at a Council for Peace and Security meeting said that he did not "see in the foreseeable future any better alternative to realignment." He said that as a result of disengagement, there had been a dramatic change in Israel's international position that had allowed it to take very harsh measures in Gaza against terrorism. Both Ramon and Livni were responding to comments made Monday by Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, Immigrant and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim and Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, who raised questions about the plan. "The chances right now of implementing realignment are very small. There are many reservations, including my own," Sheetrit said. "I don't believe in another unilateral withdrawal. What is going on in Gaza reinforces the opposition to realignment." As the debate about realignment continued inside Kadima, a poll released Tuesday indicated that 49 percent of the public was opposed to realignment, while only 38% were in favor. Another 13% had no opinion. The survey, carried out by telephone last Wednesday and Thursday among 500 people, was commissioned by the Reut Institute for a conference Tuesday entitled "Between Disengagement and Realignment." The poll was carried out by Smith Research and Consulting and had a 4.5% margin of error. Asked if they supported or opposed the realignment plan in which Israel would withdraw unilaterally from settlements in Judea and Samaria, evacuate 70,000 settlers from their homes, but preserve Israeli sovereignty over the settlement blocs in Ariel and Gush Etzion, 49% of the respondents said they were either moderately or strongly opposed to the plan, while 38% said they were moderately or strongly in favor. Religious affiliation was a strong indicator of sentiment. While 54% of those who defined themselves as "secular" said they supported the plan, 56% of those calling themselves "traditional" opposed it, as did 78% of those who labeled themselves "religious." As to whether they thought the plan would be carried out over the next two years, 36% said they felt the chances of it being carried out during this time frame were small or non-existent, while 22% said they thought the chances were good or very good. Seventeen percent of the respondents had no opinion. Livni dismissed the findings of these types of polls on realignment, asking how could people answer a question about realignment when the details of the plan had not been determined or presented.