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Corruption more important than peace for Israelis?

    Fighting government corruption is a higher national priority for Jewish Israelis than peace with the Palestinians, according to a new Tel Aviv University poll.

    One in four Jewish Israelis, asked to identify the most urgent issue the government needs to deal with, chose war on corruption and clean governance. Israeli-Palestinian peace, selected by one in five Jewish respondents, came in joint second place alongside closing socioeconomic gaps.

    The poll also probed how the Israeli public would respond if there was to be progress in peace talks. To do so it used a cross-section of adults - including Jews and Arabs - that was representative of the Israeli population.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to put any proposed deal to a referendum before signing. If he does strike an agreement, it is thought that it will involve Israel evacuating settlements located outside the large settlement blocs, so pollsters tested the public response to such possibility. Results were close - 51 per cent of respondents said they would be in favour; 42.5 per cent said they would be against.

    The poll indicated that in the case of an agreement, a settler demand rarely heard in the international arena could generate major controversy. Some 47 per cent of respondents believe that if Israel leaves settlements, settlers should be allowed to stay put and live under Palestinian rule.

    But whatever backing the poll identified for territorial withdrawal in return for peace, it seems that the Israeli population still views Palestinians with great suspicion. Seven out of ten respondents said that Palestinians have not accepted the existence of the state of Israel and would destroy it if they could. Among the Jewish respondents, some eight out of ten held this assessment of Palestinians.

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