WASHINGTON — A total of 60% of the Israeli people believe that their country should make some territorial concessions for peace with its Arab neighbors, while 39% want to hold onto all of the territory occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, even if that makes a peace settlement impossible, a new poll indicated Friday.
The random sampling of 1,200 Israelis, conducted by two polling firms, one American and the other Israeli, is a setback for U.S. Middle East policy because it shows that support for the land-for-peace concept is probably not widespread enough for future Israeli governments to fully embrace.
An overwhelming majority would be necessary for a government to act without fear of political backlash, many analysts believe.
Ever since 1967, the United States has called for Israel to withdraw from at least part of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for a durable peace. That policy is the heart of Secretary of State George P. Shultz's stalled peace initiative.
The poll, commissioned by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, was conducted in late August by Penn & Schoen Associates of New York and Dahaf of Tel Aviv. The margin of error was estimated at plus or minus 3%.
The 60%-39% ratio in support of a land-for-peace swap was recorded in response to the question, "If Israel will be asked to give up only part of the (occupied) territories in exchange for real peace, which is more important for its security?" Asked if Israel should return all of the occupied territory in exchange for a durable peace, only 46% supported giving up the land, while 52% said that Israel should keep it.
The poll indicated that a majority of the Israeli public favors direct negotiations with Palestinian representatives but opposes negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. So far, that has ap peared to be an impossible option because the overwhelming majority of Palestinians maintain that the PLO is their representative. No credible Palestinian representative has yet come forward to negotiate without PLO auspices.
According to the poll, 60% of the sample favored talks with Palestinians, while 37% opposed the idea. However, 72% of the sample said that any Palestinian representative must first renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist.
But a majority of the Israelis--57%--said they would oppose talks with the PLO even if the organization formally recognized Israel and pledged to end terrorism. And 71% said that they do not believe the PLO sincerely wants to talk peace.
Israel plans a general election Nov. 1 in which the approach to peace talks with the country's Arab adversaries looms as the largest single issue. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's rightist Likud Bloc opposes the land-for-peace formula, while Foreign Minister Shimon Peres' centrist Labor Alignment favors some territorial concessions.
Neither party is prepared to negotiate with the PLO, and neither favors a total withdrawal to Israel's pre-1967 borders.
Israeli troops reportedly killed a Palestinian man. Page 14