Poll: Israelis Favor Disengagement, Divided on Referendum

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement government" enjoys the support of the majority of voters, according to a poll carried out on behalf of Haaretz by Dialogue on Wednesday.

The poll, conducted under the supervision of Professor Camile Fuchs, shows that 59 percent of the population supports both the new government and the disengagement plan, particularly the voters from the left and the center.

However, the poll also showed that while support for the principle of disengagement remained stable, the percentage of respondents who think the plan will be implemented has decreased. Forty-five percent think the Gaza Strip will be evacuated, while the rest either think it won't or aren't sure.

When asked about a national referendum on the pullout plan, 38 percent of respondents said they wanted a referendum before the disengagement, while the same amount said they wanted pullout preparations to continue.

Responding to this data, a spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office said that Sharon remained adamantly opposed to a referendum, which he believes will only further the division among the people and lead to violence.

The poll, taken following the formation of the new government, shows that were elections to be held now, Shinui would lose four of its 15 seats in the Knesset, while Yahad would strengthen from six to eight MKs. The Likud would lose three of its 40 MKs and the Labor Party's political strength would remain unchanged at 19 seats in parliament.

The prime minister's popularity grade has increased to 6.3 points (on a scale of one to 10), compared to the grade of 6.05 he received in a a poll conducted on behalf of Haaretz two months ago. Sharon is receiving the highest marks from Labor voters, who give him 6.9 points compared to the 6.72 he gets from his own Likud voters.