69% of Israelis back Shalit deal

AFP , Saturday 15 Oct 2011

More than two thirds of Israelis approve of the prisoner swap deal made with Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,

Palestinians with hands chained, flash victory signs as they take part in a protest calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, near the International Committee of Red Cross offices in Beirut, October 14, 2011(Photo: Reuters)

A poll commissioned by Israeli Channel 10 found that 69 percent of Israelis back the exchange of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, 32 percent oppose it and the remainder gave no opinion, the private television network said on Saturday

While backing the deal, 62 percent of respondents said the release of Palestinian prisoners would "worsen Israel's security situation." But 32 percent thought "it will have no impact."

The Midgam Project carried out the poll among a representative sample of 500 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, and gave a margin error of 4.5 percent.

When asked what pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seal the deal with the Islamist Hamas movement, only 22 percent said he had acted exclusively "in the interest of Israel."

In contrast, 35 percent thought he had caved in to public opinion.

Another 35 percent said it was a bid to weaken Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who requested UN membership for a Palestinian state, or to distract attention from the social opposition movement that rocked Israel in the summer.

The Hamas rulers of Gaza are to release Shalit, captured in a cross-border raid in 2006, in exchange for a first batch of at least 450 Palestinian prisoners and a second of 550 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.

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