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More than half of Israelis support talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a Haaretz survey revealed on Thursday.

Some 51 perent of those questioned said they supported the talks, while 42percent said they were opposed. These figures are part of the results of the periodic Haaretz-Dialog survey, conducted by Professor Kamil Fuchs of the statistics department at Tel Aviv University. The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 502 people from the general public.

As expected, support for the talks came from Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Arab-party voters. Surprisingly though, 40 percent of Yisrael Beitenu voters and 28 percent of Likud voters also favor the talks. A majority of right-wing voters were against.

The poll also found that almost one third of the population thought the investigations against Olmert in the Bank Leumi tender affair should be frozen so that he could concentrate on governing the country.

When asked whether the investigations should be paused until the end of his term, 28 percent said yes while 64 percent said no. Labor Party voters were split: 47 percent on each side of the issue. Surprisingly, 54 percent of Kadima voters, Olmert's own party, were against halting the investigations.

A large majority of the populace thinks that the investigations are interfering with Olmert's ability to run the country: 36 percent though he could concentrate on his work only to "a small extent," while 49 percent said that he "almost cannot concentrate on running the country" due to the investigations.

Of course how you view the statistics depends on your political stance: Lapid, for example, would claim that this only strengthens his stand. Olmert's opponents would claim the opposite, explaining that if he cannot devote his full time to his responsibilities, he should not remain in the job for a even minute longer. In any case, 85 percent of the public does agree that it does not have a full-time prime minister with optimal use of his time.

The periodic survey again checked the public's approval rating for Olmert's performance as prime minister; and here, to Olmert's sorrow, there has been no change: only 15 percent of those questioned expressed approval of his functioning, compared to 74 percent who were dissatisfied. This figure is identical with previous surveys.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak showed a small gain, slow but steady, in his approval ratings. 33 percent approved of his job as defense minister, compared to 30 in the survey of two months ago. But Barak cannot be satisfied with this number, since his disapproval rating is rising even faster: 46 percent were dissatisfied with his performance compared to 39 percent in the previous survey.

The conclusion is that the more Barak settles in, the more the public's opinion of him firms up on both sides, with the number of those dissatisfied rising twice as fast. If anything, this should provide Olmert with encouragement, since he and Barak are fighting for the same voters.

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