Poll: Most Israelis, Palestinians See No Point in Peace Talks

Joint Hebrew U., Palestinian think tank poll also shows increase in Israeli opposition to pullout from Golan.

A poll conducted by an Israeli university and a Palestinian think tank and published Thursday shows that most Israelis and Palestinians see no point to current peace negotiations or the truce Egypt is trying to mediate between Hamas and Israel.

Part of a broader survey conducted jointly by Jerusalem's Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, the poll also reveals that opposition among Israelis to handing the Golan Heights back to Syria as part of a peace deal has increased significantly since the announcement last month that negotiations have resumed.

The poll, carried out between May 27 and June 7, shows that 67 percent of Israelis are against returning the strategic Golan plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, up from 56 percent in a March survey.

On May 21, Israel and Syria announced the resumption of indirect peace talks after an eight-year hiatus, saying they have been negotiating via Turkish mediators in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive peace.

According to the survey, 55 percent of Israeli respondents and 68 percent of the Palestinian respondents think U.S.-backed talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are going nowhere and should be shelved.

A statement said researchers questioned 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 1,006 Israelis, with a margin of error of three percentage points.

The poll also cast a shadow over efforts to hammer out truce between Israel and the violent Palestinian Hamas movement and stave off an Israeli invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

It said that only 30 percent of Israelis and 20 percent of Palestinians would support a limited cease-fire in which Hamas puts an end to constant rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from its territory and the Israeli land and air strikes that follow.

That is at the core of talks now under way in Egypt between Israeli envoy Amos Gilad and Egyptian officials who are acting as intermediaries with Hamas. Israel refuses to hold direct negotiations with the Islamist group, and Hamas does not accept the existence of Israel.

Major points of contention are Israel's demand to link the truce deal to the release of an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas for two years, and Hamas' demand that Israel open Gaza's border crossing. The new poll indicated that even if both those conditions were met, support for a truce reaches only 50 percent among Israelis.

Palestinian backing for a broad cease-fire stands at 78 percent, but only if it includes a halt to Israeli military operations in the West Bank, something Israel has ruled out.