66pct of Israelis oppose demilitarised Palestinian state: Poll

Agencies, Friday 21 Dec 2012

With the UN strongly condemning recent govt approval for settlement plans, a poll released Friday shows 2/3 of Israelis reject the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state

Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man pushes a shopping cart past a construction site in Gilo, a Jewish settlement that Israel erected on land it captured in the West Bank in a 1967 war and annexed unilaterally as part of its declared capital Jerusalem December 20, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Two-thirds of Israelis are opposed to the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state in the West Bank, a poll showed on Friday.

According to the results of a Maagar Mohot survey published in Maariv newspaper, when asked if they would support the establishment of such a state, 66 per cent said they would not, while 11 per cent said they would.

The poll, which surveyed 511 people between 19 - 20 December, has a margin of error of 4.5 per cent.

Just over half - or 51 per cent - said they would support building new settler homes in a highly sensitive area of the West Bank called E1, which lies between annexed east Jerusalem and the nearby Maaleh Adumim settlement.

Only nine per cent said they were against such a move. The remaining 40 per cent were undecided.

Three weeks ago, Israel said it was planning to build thousands of settler homes there, sparking a major diplomatic backlash, with experts saying it could cause severe harm to the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.

The plan involves building 2,610 homes in East Jerusalem and tenders for 1,048 units in the West Bank just before the UN meeting in response to the UN General Assembly vote on 29 November to recognise Palestine as a non-member state.

The United Nations and UN Security Council powers on Wednesday condemned Israel's rise in settler construction in occupied Palestine as a threat to flagging peace efforts.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon and the UN envoys from several European Union countries, Russia and China warned Israel against building new settler homes, describing the Israel-Palestinian peace process as in "deep freeze" and pointing out that it will be exacerbated by the settlement approvals.

Israel will be "held accountable" for its settlement building, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday after Israel pushed forward plans for more than 5,000 new settler homes.

"The settlers and the government of Israel should know they will be held accountable," Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, told AFP shortly after Israel reportedly okay'ed initial plans for a new settlement city in the southern West Bank.

He said all construction on Palestinian land seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War was "illegal" and that nothing would remain of the settlements after a peace deal.

"Not a single stone of those hysterical settlement projects in the West Bank or East Jerusalem will remain, so the Israeli government should back off immediately," he said.

His remarks came after the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "strongly opposed" to Israel's ramped-up settlement building, particularly around East Jerusalem, which she described as "extremely troubling."

UN ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany and Portugal highlighted European fears over the peace stalemate and stressed that their governments "strongly oppose" the Israeli construction plans.

Non-aligned members of the Security Council — Azerbaijan, Colombia, India, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan, South Africa and Togo — read their own statement of condemnation. China also joined the protest, before all were rebuffed by Israel.

The United States traditionally protects Israel at the Security Council. Using its power as a permanent member, it has vetoed many resolutions criticising Israel, including over settlements.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice did not join the public attack on Israel, but slammed the "provocative" act of the United States' major ally during closed UN Security Council consultations.

Rice, however, reaffirmed growing US impatience with its ally during closed talks at the council, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

However, in a statement released by his office, Israeli Prime Minister and head of the rightwing Likud-Beitenu list Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for "3,000 years," adding that his government will continue its plans for settlement construction in Jerusalem.

"Building new settlements serves the interests of the people living in Jerusalem, regardless if they are Jews or Arabs," Israeli radio reported Netanyahu said during his meeting with ambassadors to Israel from Asia in Jerusalem.

With less than five weeks until general elections on 22 January, the poll found steady support for Netanyahu and his electoral list, which was seen taking 37 of the 120 seats in parliament, down one from last week's survey.

The centre-left Labour held steady at 20 seats, while the nationalist pro-settler Jewish Home gained one seat, with a total of 12.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas lost one seat to stand at 11, while the opposition Kadima - currently the largest party in parliament with 28 seats - was seen taking just one seat, reflecting multiple surveys which have said the party would be all but wiped out.

The centre-right HaTnuah party of former foreign minister Tzipi Livni was flat at nine seats, while the centrist Yesh Atid was seen shedding one seat to hold at eight.

Overall, the poll saw the bloc of rightwing and ultra-Orthodox parties taking 69 seats, compared with 41 for the centre-left.

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