Majority of Israelis for Barak

JERUSALEM — Despite the glum political picture facing Ehud Barak this week, the besieged prime minister could draw some encouragement from the results of a poll.

According to the survey published Monday, 55 percent of the respondents thought Barak should go to the Camp David summit, while 45 percent did not.

Similarly, 53 percent thought he had a mandate to make concessions to the Palestinians, while 44 percent disagreed. The poll, which was carried out for the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Achronot, questioned 502 people and had a 4.5 percent margin of error.

The poll was published before Barak set off for the U.S.-sponsored peace summit Monday night bearing what he termed the "mandate of the people," after surviving a no-confidence motion.

Barak delayed his departure to the United States by several hours to participate in the Knesset session, during which the opposition Likud Party failed to muster the 61 votes needed to topple him.

However, the opposition did receive more votes than the government. The final tally was 54 in favor of the no-confidence motion, 52 against and seven abstentions.

The vote came a day after three right-leaning parties — Yisrael Ba'Aliyah, Shas and the National Religious Party — resigned from Barak's coalition over the concessions they fear Barak is willing to make to the Palestinians at Camp David. However, commentators said that depending on the results of the summit, those parties might rejoin the government.

In a further blow to the premier, Foreign Minister David Levy on Sunday turned down an invitation to go to the summit claiming that Barak had not consulted him on possible concessions.

Barak has rejected calls to form a national unity government or a coalition that relies on the support of Israeli Arab parties.

Despite being left with a legislative minority of 42 as a result of the three parties' defections, Barak told the Knesset on Monday he had an overwhelming mandate from the public to pursue the peace process.

"I am not going alone. With me are almost 2 million voters — citizens who want peace, who want to give change a chance, and hope for a different Israel at peace with its neighbors," he said.