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August 6, 2013

Most Israelis object to withdrawing to pre-1967 borders, poll says

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel/article/most_israelis_object_to_withdrawing_to_pre_1967_borders_poll_says

Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Most Israelis would oppose any peace deal with the Palestinians that involved withdrawing to pre-1967 ceasefire lines, even if land swaps were agreed to accommodate Jewish settlements, a poll showed on Tuesday.

The survey by the liberal Israeli Democracy Institute showed 65.6 percent of those questioned did not expect to see a deal in talks between Israel and the Palestinians within a year.

The talks resumed last month after a three-year hiatus. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he hopes a peace agreement that has eluded the parties for decades can be achieved within nine months.

But even if Israel manages to defy skeptics and secure an accord, the poll, jointly sponsored by Tel Aviv University, suggested it would struggle to sell it to its people.

Of the 602 people questioned, 55.5 percent said they were against Israel agreeing to the 1967 lines, even if there were land swaps which would enable some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to remain part of Israel.

Among Israel's majority Jewish population, opposition to such an agreement was 63 percent, while among Israeli Arabs, a minority group, only 15 percent objected to such a deal.

The issue, which refers to the lines that existed before the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, is considered key to sealing any deal.

Some 67 percent of all Israelis said they would also oppose Palestinian demands for a return of a even a small number of refugees who either fled or were driven away when Israel was created in 1948. They were also against compensating the refugees or their descendents financially.

On one of the other issues facing negotiators, the question of whether Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem should become part of a Palestinian state, some 50 percent of Israeli Jews said they were against the idea.

Only 55 percent of Israeli Arabs were in favor, fewer than might be expected, suggesting Arab residents of East Jerusalem did not want to lose advantages of living under Israeli government control, such as health and national insurance benefits, the IDI said.

After an opening round of talks in Washington a week ago, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to meet again during the second week of August.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the next round of discussions would be "soon."

"We have said they would meet in the region, but we have not made an announcement about an exact date yet," she said, adding that the talks would be led by U.S. envoy Martin Indyk.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also facing an uphill task trying to sell the talks to his people, even within his Palestine Liberation Organization — an umbrella body that includes many leading political factions.

In a statement on Tuesday, two groups - the Popular and the Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine — called for the talks to be suspended, denouncing them as "a repetition of pointless and harmful negotiations" held since the early 1990s.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mugrabi in Gaza and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Sonya Hepinstall

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