by ? | Reuters | December 21, 2005
Half of Israelis would favor peace talks with Hamas, despite the Islamic movement's calls to destroy the country, a poll published Wednesday showed.
Fifty percent of Israelis polled in mid-December by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem would support talks with Hamas if this was necessary to reach a peace deal, while 47 percent would be opposed, said Yaacov Shamir, who conducted the survey.
Shamir said Israelis had not grown more accepting of Hamas, but understood that the movement's popularity among Palestinians was growing.
Hamas has made a strong showing in Palestinian municipal ballots in recent months. Opinion polls put its strength at around 30 percent ahead of elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council on January 25.
"This shows an Israeli awareness of what is going on in the Palestinian public, that Hamas is serious about its intention to play a role in Palestinian politics," Shamir said. "We cannot really prevent this, and the public understands that."
Shamir compared Israel's objections to dialogue with Hamas to the country's decades-long ban on talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization before the 1993 Oslo Accords.
"The process will be shorter this time", Shamir said.
Hamas is officially opposed to talks with Israel, but some leaders have recently suggested they might not be ruled out.