Most Israelis support giving up the West Bank to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed yesterday in a speech to Jewish leaders.
But a new poll released today contradicted Rice’s contention, finding the vast majority of Israelis oppose withdrawing from the West Bank, stating they fear the Palestinians will use the strategic territory to fire rockets into central Israel.
The West Bank borders Jerusalem and is within rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.
“I believe that most Israelis are ready to leave most of the – nearly all of the West Bank – just as they were ready to leave Gaza, for the sake of peace,” said Rice addressing delegates in Nashville at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, an annual meeting of top American Jewish leaders.
“Just consider, most Israelis now believe that a responsible Palestinian state is in the national interest of Israel and that true security will require an end to the occupation that began in 1967,” Rice stated.
Her comments were followed by the release today of a poll finding 61 percent of the general Israeli public opposes a withdrawal from most of the West Bank and handing the strategic territory to the Palestinians.
If Israel indeed evacuated the West Bank, some 55 percent of Israelis believe Palestinians will use the territory to fire rockets into Jewish population centers, and 65 percent believe there is a high or very high chance Hamas would take control of the area, according to the new poll. Hamas leaders in recent days warned their terror group would take over the West Bank if Israel withdrew.
Some 77 percent of Israelis said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lacked the power to prevent attacks from the West Bank.
The new survey was sponsored by the Israel Policy Center for Promoting Parliamentary Democracy and Jewish Values in Israeli Public Life.
The same poll showed the majority of Israelis – some 55 percent – believe the Knesset should remove Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from office due to criminal investigations against him charging various degrees of financial and political corruption.
As well, 53 percent of Israelis said they believe the main reason Olmert was seeking an accord with the Palestinians was because he is concerned with his political future and not about Israel’s national interests.
The survey and Rice’s statements come in the lead up to a major U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit later this month in Annapolis, Md. Olmert is widely expected to outline a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and sections of eastern Jerusalem at the summit.
Rice’s January remarks at the time prompted some U.S. Jewish groups to demand an apology to victims of Hamas terror.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact Tim Bueler Public Relations by e-mail, or call (530) 401-3285.