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Many Israelis support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to fund programs to strengthen Jewish education in the Diaspora, a survey found.

Some 46.1 percent of Israelis say they back Olmert’s new policy to support the strengthening of Jewish education, culture and heritage in the Diaspora, according to the third annual “Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward World Jewry” commissioned by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem.

B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said the strong backing was unexpected since there has been little public debate on the issue and it runs counter to six decades of official Israeli government policy.

On Tuesday, a steering committee was established to develop plans and budgets for the new initiative that would be presented to the government by next February. Israel now allocates about $130 million for Diaspora programs.

The poll found that 38.4 percent of respondents said the government’s main goal in Israel-Diaspora relations should continue to be the promotion of mass aliyah.

In other survey results, only 20.5 percent of Israelis said the government should take Diaspora Jewish opinion into consideration when deciding on border changes, while 74.8 percent disagreed.

The poll also found that 50 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Diaspora Jews should not be allowed to legally fund political campaigns and personally support Israeli politicians, while 40 percent said such funding should be allowed.

Some 82.4 percent believe that the recent series of investigations and prosecutions of Israeli politicians, including Olmert, has had a negative effect on Israel’s image abroad. Some 8.6 percent thought the effect was positive.

The telephone survey, conducted by Keevoon Research, Strategy and Communications, contacted 5,000 Jewish Israelis above the age of 18.

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