Support Growing Among Israeli Public For National Referendum Before Gaza Retreat – 69% Now Back Referendum Proposal
News Press Release
September 21, 2004

NEW YORK- A new poll has found that more than two-thirds of Israelis now support the holding of a national referendum on the proposal to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.

The poll, conducted by the Teleseker firm for the Israeli daily Ma’ariv on September 13, 2004, found that 69% of Israelis want a national referendum on the Gaza retreat plan, as compared to only 26% who think the retreat decision should be made by the Knesset only.

The 69% level of support is an increase from the 60% that an earlier poll found. A poll on September 8, 2004 by the Maagar Mochot firm, for Israel Radio, found 60% of Israelis favor holding such a referendum, and only 17% are opposed.

Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a referendum, and Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 14, 2004) has stated: “If a referendum could prevent national trauma, I would have to support it.” A poll on September 8, 2004 by the Israeli polling agency Maagar Mochot, for Israel Radio, found 60% of Israelis favor holding such a referendum, and only 17% are opposed.

Morton A. Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), said: “Withdrawing from Gaza means grave risks for Israel’s security, as well as ending Israel’s presence in territories that have been an integral part of the Jewish homeland since biblical times. It means rewarding and encouraging terrorists. It means engaging in ethnic cleansing — something that has always been strongly condemned throughout the Jewish world. Anything less than a broad consensus, as determined in a national referendum, would leave Israeli society severely polarized. That is too high a price for Israelis — indeed, for world Jewry — to pay.

The ZOA notes that a June 2004 survey by the Israeli polling agency Geocartography found 64% of Israelis do not believe leaving Gaza will decrease the threat of missiles fired by terrorists at pre-1967 Israel, and 71% do not believe retreating from Gaza will slow down the flow of weapons from Egypt to the terrorists in Gaza.

ZOA president Klein also pointed to the fact that the Gaza withdrawal plan dramatically contradicts the platform on which Ariel Sharon was overwhelmingly elected prime minister: “During the last election campaign in Israel, Labor Party candidate Amram Mitzna urged unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and Sharon opposed it. He was elected on the basis of his opposition to unilateral withdrawal; Israel’s voters should have the right to say if they, like Sharon, have changed their minds.”

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