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July 24, 2013

Most Israelis support peace deal; Bennett vows settlement expansion

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

Israeli Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on May 19. (Flash 90)

Israeli Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on May 19. (Flash 90)

With Israeli-Palestinian talks set to begin, a poll has shown that a majority of Israelis would support a final-status agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

Conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Dialog Institute, the poll showed that 39 percent of Israelis would vote for a peace deal if it were brought to a referendum, while 16 percent said they would probably vote for a deal. Twenty percent of respondents would vote against a deal, while five percent would likely oppose it. Twenty percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The poll questioned 511 Israelis and had a 4.3 percent margin of error.

Earlier this week, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advance a bill requiring that any final-status agreement with the Palestinians be brought to a referendum. Netanyahu also supports the  bill.

In addition, on Tuesday, Bennett pledged to continue building in Israeli West Bank settlements.

Bennett is the chairman of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, which won 12 Knesset seats in January’s elections running on a platform of vehement opposition to a Palestinian state.

“We will continue building, and you will see this soon,” said Bennett at a Tuesday event in Shiloh, an Israeli West Bank settlement, according to the Times of Israel. “I am sending the message from here to all the parties in the negotiations: The land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel.”

The Palestinian Authority has long demanded that negotiations come along with a freeze on settlement expansion. But other Israeli cabinet ministers have expressed opposition to such a freeze. Last week, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, from the right-wing Likud, said a freeze “isn’t on the table.” Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel — also from Jewish Home — said Sunday that a freeze would be “inappropriate for the Jewish people, for the land of Israel and for a sovereign state” and that “we are in favor of building as much as possible,” according to the Times of Israel.

On the Palestinian side, Palestinian United Nations representative Riyad Mansour accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and supporting “terror” against Palestinians through its activity in the West Bank. He said that along with a settlement freeze, the Palestinians should insist that any negotiations be based on Israel’s pre-1967 border, with east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

“Israel speaks of negotiations without preconditions, but sets conditions on the ground,” Mansour said, according to Ynet News. “Settlements are the main obstacle to peace and sabotage any effort to achieve a two-state solution.”

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