Survey: Israelis confused over policy towards Hamas

The lack of clarity regarding Hamas's path was reflected in contradictory trends found in the Jewish public's position on relations with the Palestinians, according to a new poll published by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University. There was a decline from the previous month in the proportion of those who thought Hamas would reduce its involvement in terrorist attacks. On the other hand, there was a slight increase in those who said Israel should hand over tax and customs money it had collected on behalf on the Palestinian Authority, although a majority still opposed this transfer. A majority also said Israel should not oppose contributions by foreign actors to Palestinian civic organizations for humanitarian purposes. As for what policy Israel should now follow, the largest group, though still less than half, said Israel should decide unilaterally on its borders and not hold contacts with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. These were the primary conclusions of the Peace Index survey for February 2006. 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. Slightly more than a third of Israeli Jews favored "keeping a door open" to Hamas in the hope it would change its positions. The remainder of the respondents had no clear opinion on the issue. Regarding the upcoming Israeli election, there was a further increase in the rate of those who thought security considerations would determine voters' choices, in contrast to the view that prevailed in November that this time socioeconomic issues would be paramount. A large majority said that regardless of composition of the next governing coalition, foreign and defense policy would be similar. The public tended, however, to identify more with Kadima's platform on these issues. Likud and Labor came in second and third place respectively. Labor came out on top as far as identification with the parties socioeconomic platforms was concerned, followed, at a considerable distance, by Kadima and Likud. In this area, as in the political-security sphere, the public tended to expect the same sort of policies no matter what government is formed. As in the past, most of the public expressed a preference for a broad coalition, combining left- and right-wing parties. The rest were divided almost equally between those favoring a right- and a left-wing coalition. The Jewish public was split on whether one or more of the parties from the Arab sector should be included in the next government.