Thursday, May 22, 2008

Golan Poll

Poll: More Israelis object to Golan accord than to Jerusalem deal

By Lily Galili

About two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria - more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world, a recent survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute headed by Professor Yitzhak Katz for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The survey, intended to assess Israel's sovereignty and independence in its 60th year, was initiated by Dr. Udi Lebel of Sapir and Ariel colleges.

The section referring to the state's borders shows two main tendencies. One is harsher positions - 68 percent of the people surveyed want to preserve the existing situation including keeping the West Bank and Golan. The other tendency is to prefer the Golan to any other region.

Only 4 percent of the interviewees chose the option of "the Green Line borders with the West Bank but without the Golan" compared with 18 percent - 4.5 times more - who preferred "the Green Line borders with the Golan but without the West Bank."

About a third - 35 percent - said they were "moderately or highly likely" to take illegal action to prevent the Golan's evacuation. About half of them - 18 percent - said they were prepared to take illegal action to prevent the evacuation of a large settlement such as Ariel.

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) told Haaretz that in his experience such public opinion polls influence state leaders. "I have no doubt that the intention of such a poll is to signal: 'Don't touch the Golan,' as Ehud Barak was told at the time, and it scared him," Beilin said. "Does it affect a leader? It certainly does. Should it affect him? Certainly not."

Beilin says this position will change the moment Israel's prime minister explains to the public the full significance of such an agreement - such as the possibility 'to get into a car in Israel and drive to Paris,' and the agreement's implications on an agreement with Syria and on Israel's position vis-a-vis Hamas and Iran.

Beilin suggests that all peace negotiations be accompanied by a public information campaign. He said he would support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and vote for every move he makes toward peace. "In these situations the prime minister doesn't need moral backing but a Knesset majority," he said.