Poll: Israelis, Palestinians back two-state deal

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A poll suggests majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but remain suspicious of the other side.

The survey was released Wednesday, hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's return to the region. Kerry is trying to forge agreement on the outlines of a peace deal, but gaps remain. In the poll, 63 percent of Israeli respondents and 53 percent of Palestinians said they back a two-state solution. Support dropped to 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, when respondents were asked about specifics such as the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

The Israeli poll, conducted by the Hebrew University, questioned 601 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. The Palestinian survey, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, questioned 1,270 Palestinians and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in 1967, for their state. Ahead of Kerry's visit, the sides have been squabbling over the Jordan Valley, a strategic part of the West Bank along the border with neighboring Jordan. Israel wants to retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley even after a peace deal is reached. The Palestinians reject any Israeli presence in their state.

The Israeli military on Wednesday prevented dozens of Palestinian and international activists from building a symbolic village in the Jordan Valley on the shore of the Dead Sea, the activists said. Salah al-Khawaja, one of the organizers, said the military set up a check point in their way and stopped them and forced them to return back. He said the activists protested on the spot, raising Palestinian flags and signs read "the Jordan Valley is ours." The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Al-Khawaja said the activists had planned to set up a tent on the shore "as a symbolic response" to Israel actions in the area. Earlier this week, an Israeli ministerial committee voted in favor of annexing the Jordan Valley. The legislation is not expected to pass. On Thursday, Israeli hardliners plan on breaking ground for a new neighborhood in a Jordan Valley settlement.

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