Over half of the Israeli public does not trust U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to act as an impartial mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a new survey commissioned by Israel Hayom from the New Wave Research Institute has found.
According to the poll, held Wednesday among 500 Jewish Israelis ages 18 and over, 53.5 percent do not trust Kerry in that respect. Some 19.8% of those polled said Kerry is an unbiased mediator, and 26.7% said they had no opinion on the matter.
The poll further sought to discern the public's opinion on a recent proposal, brought up as part of the negotiations on a framework peace deal, suggesting that Israel withdraw its security forces from the Jordan Valley, and found that 69.8% oppose such a move, while only 14.3% support it. Some 15.9% of those polled said they had no opinion on the matter.
Asked who they believe is best suited to lead the State of Israel at this time, 34.3% of the participants said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the best possible candidate, followed by Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman (8.9%), Habayit Hayehudi Chairman MK Naftali Bennett (7.9%), Labor Chairman MK Isaac Herzog (7.2%), Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni (6.8%) and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid (6.4%). Some 28.5% of those polled said they did not know.
The poll has a +/- 4.4% margin of error.
Meanwhile, the harsh criticism leveled at Kerry by senior Israeli officials and quoted by Israel Hayom Thursday has caused a political firestorm.
Many on the Right were quick to echo sentiments expressed by several diplomatic officials who have called Kerry's security plan for the Jordan Valley "ridiculous"; while others have said his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was "obsessive."
"Every time Israel even considered withdrawing from an area under its control in favor of a deal that would ensure its security interests the results were grave," International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said.
"That was the case when we withdrew from Nablus and Jenin, and that was the case when we withdrew from the Gaza Strip. The pretension, to present security arrangements for the Jordan Valley that would be based on electronic surveillance and foreign troops and expect Israel to trust its security to that, is unfounded. This pretension discounts reality," he said.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said that "Kerry has to understand that we will not trust the security of the State of Israel to foreign troops."
Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that "the peace process is more a personal political interest of Kerry's than it is an interest by the United States. He wants to succeed [U.S. President Barack] Obama."
The Left, however, has warned that criticizing Kerry might impede the peace talks and damage Israel's relations with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said that the criticism leveled at Kerry was "made by individuals who seek to torpedo the peace process."
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said that "some people will do everything in their power to derail the peace talks."
Meanwhile, senior Palestinian Authority officials are preparing for another shuttle diplomacy mission by Kerry, who is expected to visits Jerusalem and Ramallah again next week.
A senior Ramallah source told Israel Hayom Staff that Kerry plans to present Israel and the Palestinians with a new draft from a framework agreement during his next visit.
Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Taysir Khalid criticized the U.S., saying, "The U.S. is applying pressure and blackmail by threatening to stop its aid to the Palestinians of the negotiations with Israel fail."