An overwhelming majority of Israelis approve of the prisoner swap deal made with Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a poll in Israel's top-selling daily newspaper showed Monday.
According to the poll published in Yediot Aharonot, 79 percent of Israelis back the exchange of Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, and only 14 percent oppose it. The first stage of the deal, in which Shalit will be released after more than five years in Hamas captivity in Gaza in return for 477 prisoners, is set for Tuesday.
The deal is being challenged by four petitions to the High Court on Monday, filed by family members of victims of Palestinian militants and a group representing victims of attacks. They say that the release of that many militants in return for one Israeli soldier is out of proportion and will risk the lives of Israelis.
According to the Maariv daily, the Palestinian militants to be released are collectively responsible for the killing of a total of 569 Israelis. The Israeli High Court has never overturned any government decision to free prisoners involved in militant attacks.
While 50 percent of respondents cited in the poll feared that the release of the militants would negatively affect the safety of Israeli citizens, 48 percent said they did not share that fear, and trusted the security services.
The Mina Tzemah/Dahaf poll was carried out on Sunday among a representative sample of 500 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, and gave a margin error of 4.4 percent.
When asked to describe the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in sealing the deal with the Islamist Hamas movement, 43 percent said he had acted "as usual." In contrast, 49 percent said he caved in to public opinion.
A Saturday poll commissioned by Channel 10 television found that 69 percent of Israelis backed the deal, while 32 percent opposed it.
The Hamas rulers of Gaza are to release Shalit, captured in a cross-border raid in 2006, in exchange for a first batch of 477 Palestinian prisoners. A second batch of 550 prisoners will be released within two months.
Israel, which will decide on the prisoners in the second group, has not yet announced their names but a diplomat from Egypt, which brokered the deal, said his country had insisted since 2007 that they be members of Abbas's secular Fatah movement.