Israelis Oppose Talks with PLO Now, but Polls Show Future Willingness

There seems something for everybody in a recent spate of polls assessing Israeli attitudes toward negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has embraced one finding of a poll conducted last week for The New York Times by the Hanoch Smith polling concern.

It found that 82 percent of Israeli Jews oppose negotiations with the PLO at this time. This bolsters his own opposition to such talks as he prepares to meet in Washington with President Bush on Thursday.

In addition, 64 percent said they thought it “possible to conduct peace negotiations with Palestinians who are not connected with the PLO.” Shamir has long insisted that non-PLO interlocutors could be found to conduct peace negotiations.

But Israelis to the left of Shamir’s Likud bloc may be heartened by a poll finding that 58 percent of Israelis would favor talks if the PLO “officially recognizes Israel and ceases terrorist activities.”

The Times poll also found that 62 percent of Israelis feel talks with the PLO are inevitable over the next five years.

The Labor Party, headed by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, officially backs Shamir’s stand, but some key party members have advocated talking with the PLO. Parties to the left of Labor, including the Citizens Rights Movement and Mapam, also have urged such negotiations.

One unmistakable trend, however, is that the overwhelming majority of Israelis do not feel the PLO has done enough for negotiations to begin now, despite PLO leader Yasir Arafat’s statements in December that he recognized Israel’s right to exist.

18 PERCENT FAVOR TALKS NOW

Asked whether Arafat’s recent declarations constitute a basis for negotiations with the Israeli government now, only 18 percent said yes, according to the Times survey. Even among those on the left, only 41 percent said they favored immediate talks with the PLO.

The Times and the Smith concern, which conducted the poll of 1,096 Israeli Jews between March 23 and 28, said the results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Other recent polls also show that the majority of Israelis are unwilling to consider negotiations with the PLO now, but would favor talks if the PLO fulfilled certain conditions.

They indicate that a widely touted poll conducted in February was somewhat misleading in reporting that 54 percent of all Israelis unconditionally favor negotiations with the PLO.

According to a new poll, conducted by the Telesker concern for Peace Now, only 20.8 percent of Israeli Jews think talks should be started with the PLO now, while 66 percent of the public is willing to talk to the PLO if certain conditions are fulfilled.

Those results were published in Ha’aretz on Friday.

And in a poll by the Modi’in Ezrachi concern, published March 24, 56 percent of Israelis said they believe “there is no room for talks with the PLO.”

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