Poll shows Israelis divided over Obama demands

Israeli voters are divided on whether the Jewish state should accede to United States President Barack Obama’s demands to stop settlement building and accept a Palestinian state, a newspaper poll showed on Friday.

In answer to the question: “Should Israel accept Obama’s demands or reject them and risk sanctions?” 40% of respondents said Israel should be prepared to risk Washington’s wrath and not heed Obama’s call, made in Egypt on Thursday.

About 56% said Israel should fall into line with US demands. That number, however, would be likely to include people from the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs and who generally favour Palestinian statehood and oppose settlement building in the West Bank.

In tackling the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Obama said Israel should accept the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside it and must halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

He also called on Palestinians to abandon violence and urged the Hamas Islamist group to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Obama made the remarks during an address to the world’s more than one billion Muslims in Cairo on Thursday where he called for a “new beginning” in ties between Washington and the Islamic world.

At odds with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said construction would continue in existing settlements and has not publicly endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In explaining the poll in the mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, correspondent Sima Kadmon said: “Pride is an honourable trait, but not at the expense of a dispute with the master.”

The poll queried 501 respondents representing a cross-section of the Israeli population. It said 53% thought Obama’s policies towards Israel were bad, while 26% said they were positive.

It also showed that Israelis are about equally divided on Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister since his right-leaning coalition took power in March, with 47% saying he is succeeding and 45% saying he is failing in office.—Reuters

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