Poll shows dip in Israeli support for Gaza pullout (REUTERS) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/18/05 06:47 AM ET)
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli public support for a Gaza withdrawal
has slipped in recent months but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s plan
is still backed by a clear majority in the Jewish state, a new
opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
The survey conducted by Tel Aviv University at the beginning of May
pointed to a steady erosion of a previous two-thirds majority for
what will be Israel´s first removal of Jewish settlements from land
Palestinians want for a state.
It found that 56 percent of Israeli Jews back the planned withdrawal
set for mid-August, down from 59 percent in April and 62 percent in
Another 38 percent were opposed -- up from 36 percent last month and
29 percent three months ago -- while the remaining 6 percent were
undecided on the plan to evacuate 21 settlements in Gaza and four of
120 in the West Bank.
The researchers attributed the decline in support to growing concern
that the withdrawal would hurt Israeli security.
Sharon has billed a Gaza pullout as a way to "disengage" from a key
point of conflict with the Palestinians and make the Jewish state
But researchers cited a "widespread assessment that ... chaos will
prevail in the Gaza Strip."
"A majority believes that after the departure of Israeli forces from
Gaza, attacks against Israel from the area such as Qassam rocket
fire, will intensify," they said in a statement.
Palestinians welcome any withdrawal but many fear Sharon is trying
to trade the coastal strip for a tighter grip on the West Bank,
where the vast majority of Israel´s 240,000 settlers live.
The survey found a third of Israelis doubted the withdrawal would
begin on schedule, for fear that Israeli rightists would "mobilize
masses of people" to block troops from evacuating settlers from land
they see as a biblical birthright.
It said 35 percent expected Sharon would meet the target date, but
37 percent think a delay is possible while 12 percent do not think
the withdrawal will take place at all. The poll had a margin for
error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
The findings were consistent with a Maariv newspaper poll on May 6
showing support for the pullout had slipped to 54 percent, down from
61 percent three weeks earlier. But most previous polls have shown
support of 60 percent or more(© Reuters 2005. 05/18/05)
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