Ha'aretz: "Poll: Most rightist Israelis would support Palestinian state, dividing Jerusalem"

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Two-state principles presented to respondents include Israel for Jews and Palestine for Palestinians, with Palestinian refugees having the right to return only to their new country.

Ha'aretz | By Barak Ravid | Dec.31, 2012 | 1:50 AM

Two opinion surveys conducted by different Israeli pollsters in December show that most Likud-Beiteinu and the further-right Habayit Hayehudi voters would support a peace agreement establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, Israel's retention of major settlement blocs and a division of Jerusalem. The two polls also revealed that two thirds of all Israelis support such an agreement.

The polls were commissioned by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in Washington D.C. Abraham, who made his fortune with Slim-Fast diet products, is considered a major contributor and close to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He is also known to be close to President Shimon Peres and to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. However, Abraham has met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on almost every visit to Israel over the past four years.

The Abraham Center is headed by former Congressman Robert Wexler, who is close to President Barack Obama and was very active in the latter's recent presidential campaign. According to one assessment, Wexler may be appointed to a senior position in the Obama administration in the coming months.

The Abraham Center commissioned parallel polls from Mina Tzemach's Dahaf and from pollster Rafi Smith on the Israeli public's views about peace with the Palestinians. The firms were aware of each other's polls. Each poll asked one question: If the government of Israel presented a public referendum on a peace agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to be implemented only after the Palestinians held up all the obligations at their end, especially the war on terror, and the United States approved of the agreement, would you support it or not?

The principles of the agreement as presented to respondents were for two states - Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinians, with Palestinian refugees having the right to return only to their new country. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized and its boundaries would be based on the 1967 lines with exchanges of equal-sized territory. Those exchanges would take into consideration Israel's security needs and would retain the large settlement blocs in Israeli hands.

Another principle presented by the pollsters was that Jewish Jerusalem would be under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty. The Old City would be under neither side's sovereignty, but rather would be administered jointly by Israel, the Palestinians and the United States. The holy places would remain under religious sovereignty as they are now.

The responses of Likud-Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi voters to the two surveys were surprising. The Dahaf poll showed 57 percent of the voters of these two parties as supporting such an agreement, with 25 percent opposed. Rafi Smith's poll showed 58 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed. Among Habayit Hayehudi respondents to the Dahaf poll, 53 percent said they would support such an agreement and 43 percent said they would not.

When it came to the general public, Mina Tzemach's poll revealed that 67 percent supported such an agreement and 21 percent opposed it, while Rafi Smith's poll showed 68 percent in favor and 25 percent against. The surveys found that the general public's support for the agreement rose to 75 percent (Dahaf ) and 80 percent (Rafi Smith ) when augmented by various other "improvements" such as a defense alliance with the United Sates, disarmament of Hamas and an end to its rule in Gaza, and Arab states' willingness to enact full diplomatic relations with Israel.

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