Poll: Most Israelis Back Direct Talks With Hamas on Shalit

Haaretz-Dialog poll finds 64% want negotiations on truce; rising number of public figures also in favor.

Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks.

The figures were obtained in a Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted Tuesday under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University.

According to the findings, Israelis are fed up with seven years of Qassam rockets falling on Sderot and the communities near Gaza, as well as the fact that Shalit has been held captive for more than a year and a half.

An increasing number of public figures, including senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces' reserves, have expressed similar positions on talks with Hamas.

It now appears that this opinion is gaining traction in the wider public, which until recently vehemently rejected such negotiations.

The survey also showed that Likud voters are much more moderate than their Knesset representatives. About half (48 percent) support talks with Hamas.

In Kadima, 55 percent are for talks, while among Labor voters, the number jumps to 72 percent.

With regard to Tuesday's High Court ruling rejecting petitions against ex-president Moshe Katsav's plea bargain, about half of those polled said the decision was not justified.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who was part of a minority position against the plea bargain, can thus take some comfort that many people are with her. About one-third of those polled supported the majority opinion in favor of the plea bargain.

On the suspended sentence and fine Katsav is likely to receive, about half of those asked (47 percent) said the sentence was not harsh enough, as opposed to 29 percent who said the punishment was "fitting," and 8 percent who said it was "too harsh."