Figures close politically to Benjamin Netanyahu, and even Labor Party leaders, were worried that the prime minister's fear of U.S. President Barack Obama would overcome his terror of the settlers and force the words "settlement freeze" from his mouth.
Here is what senior labor figure Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said two weeks ago at a Knesset hearing on the illegal outposts: "There are components that certainly can be authorized or for which a solution can be found through negotiations," adding, "I absolutely believe in the need for natural growth."
Herzog presented the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Ilit as an example of a community that should be expanded to accommodate the high fertility rate of its residents.
He did not mention that it is expanding at the expense of the land of the inhabitants of the adjacent Palestinian village of Bil'in. So, is he supposed to be the social affairs minister of the Palestinians?
From a poll that was released just prior to Netanyahu's speech at Bar-Ilan University, the prime minister could have learned that the phrase "two states for two peoples" would attract broad public support and therefore he could anticipate having no real problems with the unity of the governing coalition. According to the poll, 64 percent of the Jewish public supports a two-state solution. The poll, conducted as part of an in-depth study by the Institute for National Security Studies, found that the readiness of Israel's adult Jewish population to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the context of a final status arrangement rose from 21 percent in 1987 to 61 percent in 2006, falling to 55 percent in 2007 and 53 percent in the current poll.
The director of the poll, Yehuda Ben Meir, believes that while the two-state proposition is acceptable to a majority of the public as the only realistic solution, the concept of a Palestinian state still has negative connotations to many.
When the price issue is raised, the public is seized with significant stinginess. Only 15 percent support the removal of all West Bank settlements as part of a final status arrangement, while 43 percent are willing to "evacuate only the small and isolated settlements." More than 40 percent oppose evacuating West Bank settlements under any conditions. Regarding the Golan Heights, 60 percent oppose any withdrawal while 20 percent are willing to return the Golan to Syrian sovereignty as long as the Israeli settlements there remain in place. All of this would be in exchange for a peace agreement with Syria that includes full diplomatic and economic ties and the demilitarization of the heights as well as the end of the Syrian alliance with Iran, the expulsion of terrorist organizations from Syria and an end to Syrian support for Hezbollah.
Obama can learn from the poll that one decisive speech by an American president and the volley of pronouncements by senior members of his administration have a greater impact on Jewish public opinion in Israel than the entire Israeli left.
Even before Obama's transition from words to deeds, 42 percent of the Jewish public in Israel opposes expansion of the settlements. Another 41 percent support settlement expansion "but not if it would lead to a confrontation with the U.S."
Only 17 percent voice support for settlement expansion "irrespective of the U.S. position." On the question of the illegal outposts, 57 percent support their removal, even by force, while 18 percent support their removal only by agreement with their occupants. Only 25 percent oppose dismantling the outposts.
A large majority of respondents - 77 percent - would support a law providing for the evacuation and compensation of settlers.
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