November 13, 2009 / 9:34 AM / 10 years ago

Israelis seen backing possible talks with Hamas

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - More than half of Israelis would support peace talks with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas if it recognized Israel, a poll published on Friday said.

An Israeli stands on a roof near a house taken over by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem November 3, 2009. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

The results of the survey conducted by the Israeli Dialog Institute seemed to suggest Israelis were blaming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival, for a deadlock in peace talks, more than Israel’s rightist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Haaretz newspaper wrote.

A peace plan floated on Sunday by a former defense chief, Shaul Mofaz, suggesting possible talks with Hamas if the Islamists were to drop their refusal to recognize Israel, was backed by 57 percent of Israelis, the poll showed.

It also showed an increasing majority backing Netanyahu.

Mofaz, number two lawmaker in Israel’s largest opposition party, Kadima, also proposed giving Palestinians 60 percent of West Bank land for a state and compensating Jewish settlers to leave these areas.

Western countries have said they would engage Hamas only if it renounced violence, accepted interim peace deals with Israel and recognized its right to exist.

Abbas had threatened to avoid standing for reelection, blaming Netanyahu for a delay in peace talks stalled since December. He has since agreed to delay a scheduled Palestinian poll after objections voiced by Hamas.

Despite the support for Mofaz’s ideas, Netanyahu had also gained greater backing in recent months, the newspaper said. The poll was taken after Netanyahu’s talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday.

Netanyahu’s right-wing allies were predicted as capable of winning more seats in parliament than in a February election, whereas center and left-wing parties have lost some support, the survey showed.

Israeli rightist parties would win 72 of parliament’s 120 seats, up from 65 at the moment, while centrist and left-wing parties would drop from 55 to 48, the poll found.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Charles Dick

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