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Poll Shows Israelis Suspicious of US-Sponsored Peace Process

Growing tensions between Israel and the United States are eroding Israeli support for peace moves with the Palestinians.

Amid strong U.S. pressure for a freeze on Jewish settlement construction, there is growing skepticism among Israelis about the peace process. A poll published Friday in the Jerusalem Post shows that 64 percent of Israeli Jews believe Israel cannot trust international pledges for its security in return for withdrawing from West Bank settlements. Only nine percent have faith in international guarantees.

The settlement issue has created a deepening rift between Israel and Washington since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assumed power three months ago.

"What the United States is demanding is something that no government in Israel can possibly accept. It is totally unrealistic," said Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan.

Tensions between the two countries escalated this week after the U.S. demanded a halt to a Jewish housing project in disputed east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state. Mr. Netanyahu responded that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and that Israeli sovereignty over the entire city is "indisputable."

Schueftan says there is a strong national consensus for the prime minister's position.

"What is happening now in Jerusalem and the response of Netanyahu is a reflection of the impossibility of the American strategy, because when they protest in Jerusalem, an Israeli prime minister must reject it," he said. "Netanyahu sees the opportunity, and chose to focus on this issue."

The poll also shows deep Israeli distrust of the U.S. push for a Palestinian state. Sixty two percent of those surveyed said the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank wants to establish a state instead of Israel; only 27 percent believe the Palestinians want two states living side-by-side in peace. That reinforces Mr. Netanyahu's own suspicions about the two-state solution.