Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint session of Congress May 24 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday thanked US President Barack Obama for his “steadfast” support in ensuring Israel's security in a landmark address to the US Congress. - AFP Photo

JERUSALEM: The majority of Israelis believe their prime minister should have supported US President Barack Obama's outline for new peace talks with the Palestinians, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

The survey, published in the Maariv newspaper, found 10 per cent of Israelis thought Benjamin Netanyahu should have “declared his support for the president's remarks with no reservations.”

Another 46.8 per cent said the Israeli leader should have expressed support “but with reservations,” while 36.7 per cent said Netanyahu should have declared his opposition to Obama's principles for the peace process.

In a key speech on Middle East policy that came just before Netanyahu flew to Washington, Obama called for negotiations to resume immediately and for the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War to form the basis for the talks.

But Netanyahu, in a statement issued just after that speech and in several of his own speeches while in Washington, rejected the 1967 lines as a basis for talks, calling them “indefensible.”

The Maariv poll also found that if elections were held in Israel today, Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party would win, increasing its number of seats in the Knesset to 30, from the 27 it currently holds.

The opposition Kadima party would take 27 seats of the 120-seat legislature, down from its current 28, while the ultra-nationalist Israel Beitenu party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would take 16 seats, compared with the 15 it currently holds.

Netanyahu also came out ahead of his political opponents on an individual basis, with 36.9 per cent of respondents saying he was best suited to be prime minister.

Respondents put Kadima head Tzipi Livni in second place with 28.3 per cent support, followed by Lieberman with 9.2 per cent and Defence Minister Ehud Barak with just 2.6 per cent.

The poll was carried out for Maariv by the Teleseker institute and surveyed 450 people. It had a margin of error of 4.6 per cent.

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