The results of a new poll show that a strong majority of Israelis support the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, those territories labeled by the world as the "West Bank" and claimed by the Palestinian Arabs for a future state.
Conducted by researchers at the Ariel University Center, the survey showed that 64 percent of Israelis from around the country support the continuation of Jewish settlement activity in Judea and Samaria.
Of the 36 percent that voted the other way, a portion said settlement activity should only be halted temporarily while a final-status peace deal is worked out with the Palestinians. In other words, far more than 64 percent of Israelis believe Jews have a right to live in these territories, but some feel that settlement activity should be curbed for the time being as a matter of pragmatism.
While many Israelis view Judea and Samaria as the biblical heartland of their people, and therefore one of the most important areas for Jewish settlement, most of the poll's respondents said they were influenced by the security benefits provided by the Israeli settlements.
Most said that Gaza must serve as and example of why Jews cannot be removed from Judea and Samaria. Following the 2005 uprooting of Gaza's Jewish community, Hamas quickly seized control of the area and, together with allied terror groups, began a years-long campaign that has seen thousands of missiles hit cities and towns across southern Israel.
A similar situation existed for the residents of Tel Aviv and Israel's populous coastal region prior to 1967, and most Israelis are unwilling to return to such a situation. They see the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria as a kind of "security belt."
In fact, the term "settlement" in its modern context is a misrepresentation of the situation. The Jews living in Judea and Samaria today are not ethnically foreign to the area. Numerous historical writings, including many by Arabs and Muslims, confirm that Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria for millennia. Those writings have been backed up by the discovery of a staggering amount of archeological evidence.
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