More than two thirds of Israelis approve of the prisoner swap deal made with Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a private television network reported on Saturday.
A poll commissioned by Channel 10 found that 69 percent of Israelis back the exchange of Shalit for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, 32 percent oppose it and the remainder gave no opinion.
While backing the deal, 62 percent of respondents said the release of Palestinian prisoners would “worsen Israel’s security situation.” But 32 percent thought “it will have no impact.”
The Midgam Project carried out the poll among a representative sample of 500 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, and gave an error margin of 4.5 percent.
When asked what pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seal the deal with the Islamist Hamas movement, only 22 percent said he had acted exclusively “in the interest of Israel.”
In contrast, 35 percent thought he had caved in to public opinion.
Another 35 percent said it was a bid to weaken Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who requested U.N. membership for a Palestinian state, or to distract attention from the social opposition movement that rocked Israel in the summer.
Israel, which will decide on the prisoners in the second group, has not yet announced their names.
However on Friday, in an apparent protest against the impending prisoner swap, a man who lost five family members in a 2001 suicide attack defaced a memorial to assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Israeli Police named the man as Shvuel Schijveschuurder, whose parents and three siblings were killed in the bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria a decade ago.
Surveillance cameras showed him daubing the Tel Aviv memorial in paint and he was briefly detained by police before being released on bail.
Hamas has said two Palestinians who helped carry out the suicide attack were among 1,027 prisoners Israel has agreed to free in return for the release of Shalit.
Images from the scene showed the memorial covered in white paint and sprayed graffiti on a wall calling for Rabin's killer to be freed and the words “price tag” − a slogan associated with hardline Jewish West Bank settlers.
Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an ultra-nationalist Jew opposed to a negotiated peace deal with the Palestinians.
The prisoner swap, over three years in the making, was finally brokered last week with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
Some 450 Palestinian men and 27 women are due to be freed in the first phase of the swap, with Shalit expected to be handed over to Israel simultaneously. A further 550 Palestinians will be released next month.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh described the deal as a “victory for Gaza” in a speech following Friday prayers. He said he expected the deal to be done on Tuesday, which he said would be a “national and historic day of joy”.
Israel is set to publish the official list of prisoners it will free late on Saturday or early on Sunday. It has already said that almost 300 of them are men are serving life terms.
After the list is released on the Israel Prisons Authority web site, there will be a 48-hour period during which the Supreme Court can hear legal objections.
Families of the Israeli victims have said they will protest, but this is not expected to halt the swap.
Shalit was grabbed by militants who tunneled into an Israeli army border position next to Gaza in 2006. Israeli forces had withdrawn from Gaza a year earlier, shutting off the coastal enclave behind a heavily guarded security fence.
Shalit was 19 when he was captured and is now 25. The last sign of life received from the soldier was a videotape made by his captors in September 2009 in which he pleaded for his life.