A majority of Israelis support ceasefire talks with Hamas, according to a poll released Wednesday, but oppose any deal with the Gaza-based terror group that does not include the release of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers it holds.
The survey, conducted as part of the Israel Democracy Institute’s monthly peace index, was released amid reports of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement that would end months of violence along the Gaza border and improve humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave.
Among Israeli Jews, 57 percent said they support holding talks with Hamas, with those numbers jumping to 70% and 81%, respectively, among voters on the center and left of the political spectrum.
Right-wing voters, however, were split, with 45% supporting and 47% opposing negotiations with Hamas, while 60% of Arab Israelis said they were in favor.
Despite majority support for talks with Hamas, 78% of Israeli Jews said they would oppose any agreement that did not include the return of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose remains have been held by Hamas since they were killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
That stance was supported by a majority of respondents from all political stripes: 82% on the right, 75% from the center and 66% on the left.
The survey did not mention Avera Mengistu or Hisham al-Sayed, two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza of their own accord and are believed to be held by Hamas. Both of them are said to suffer from mental health issues.
Since a bout of violence between Israel and Hamas last month raised fresh fears of another war, the sides have reportedly been engaged in indirect negotiations led by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar to broker a long-term truce.
While Hamas has acknowledged the third-party talks, Israel has been loath to do likewise and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last month he has “nothing to do” with them.
In addition to ceasefire talks with Hamas, the peace index survey probed Israeli attitudes toward reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians and what the key obstacles to such an agreement are.
Asked about the chances for a “positive breakthrough” in negotiations with the Palestinians over the next year, 89% of Israeli Jews said the likelihood was low, as did 71% of Arab respondents.
A majority of Israeli Jews opposed a number of measures that could help win Palestinian support for a peace accord, including releasing security prisoners (81%), recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state (75%), having an open border between the two countries and evacuating isolated settlements (57%).
Much of the pessimism appeared connected to Israeli suspicions over Palestinian intentions, with 66% of respondents agreeing that “most of the Palestinians have not come to terms with Israel’s existence and would destroy it if they could.”
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on ice since a failed round of US-led negotiations ended in 2014, while efforts by the White House to revive them have floundered amid opposition by the Palestinians to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.