The majority of the Israeli public believes Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently under investigation for allegedly receiving unlawful funds from American businessman Morris Talansky, should step down immediately; even before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the State Prosecutor's Office decide whether or not an indictment is warranted in his case.
The data was published by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research Monday, as part of its monthly War and Peace Index project.
The Index, published monthly since 1994, is run by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann; and is compiled of a monthly telephone survey of 600 Israeli citizens representing the various sectors in Israeli society.
June's survey focused on three issues on the national agenda: The status of Olmert and his government; the negotiations with Syria; and the question of the Israeli prisoners in Lebanon.
The incorruptibility factor
Given a choice, 40% of the public said their preferred alternative to the situation would be early elections; while 21% said they prefer a replacement by named without holding elections. This, said the Steinmetz Center, may indicate that the public is not interested in the government’s continued tenure.
Still, 10% said they believe Olmert should remain in office pending the results of the police probe against him; and 20% said they prefer Olmert to stay in office pending the decision on an indictment.
The public’s desire to see the investigation against Olmert concluded was also evident by the widespread opposition – 60% – to claim that this may not be the right time to investigate him since, if he were to step down it would be detrimental to the negotiations on the Palestinians and Syrian avenues.
Probe must be concluded. Olmert (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
A segmentation of the results showed that this position was supported by the majority of the voters. Regardless of political affiliation, suggesting that in the normative climate which has emerged in recent years, the incorruptibility of political leaders comes carries higher significance than political qualifications; even when it comes to advancing the peace process.
When asked who may be the best candidate to push both the Palestinian and the Syrian peace talks forward while safeguarding Israel’s vital interests, the segmentation was as followed: Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu – 27%, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – 17%, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – 8%, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz – 6%, Olmert – 5%, and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter – 3%.
Israeli public unwilling to cede Golan Heights
The ongoing reports about renewed Israeli-Syrian negotiations with Turkish mediation have not caused a change in the Jewish public’s positions on the conditions for peace with Syria, as 67% oppose signing any peace treaty which will entail Israel's full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Only 16% of Israelis would support such a move. The rest – 17% – either had no clear position or declined to answer.
The Israeli public, said the Index, does not seem to be troubled by prospect of Israeli and Syria failing to strike peace: The existing situation, said 60.5% of the poll's participants, may still continue for many years. Only 30.5% of Israelis said that another war between Israel and Syria was a matter of time.
As for why the Israeli public views the Golan Heights as crucial to Israelis, 65% said it carries strategic military importance; 20% cited its national significance as part of the historic Land of Israel; and 7% believe it has economic and tourism value.
Existing tension with Syria may continue for years (Archive photo: Reuters)
As for the question of who should have the final authority to sign a peace accords entailing any concessions in the Golan Heights, 20% said it should be the government with the support of a regular or special majority of the Knesset (8% and 12% respectively); but a majority of 72% said the matter should be left up to the public.
Moreover, 66% said they would like a referendum to be held on the matter, indicating the public has little faith in its elected politicians when in comes to the Golan Heights. As for the question of in which stages of the negotiations a referendum should be held, 48% said they prefer it to be held before any detailed treaty was reached, while 41% favor conducting it only after a deal is struck.
Prisoners' exchange? Not at all costs
Finally, on the question of whether Israel, in return for the retrieval of Israeli MIA's Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, should agree to release any of the Lebanese prisoners it holds, including Samir Kuntar, who was jailed 29 years ago, after murdering the Haran family members and two police officers during a terror attack on the northern city of Nahariya; the public’s position seemed to be dependent on the existing information regarding their state.
Given the widespread belief that unfortunately, Regev and Goldwasser are no longer alive, 46% of those polled said they were against striking a prisoners' exchange deal; while 38% said they would agree to it.
The answer changed, however, when those polled were asked for their opinion on the matter should Israel receive proof that the two – or even one – were still alive. Should that be the case, 80% of the Israeli public would support favors a prisoners' exchange deal.