NEW YORK - The Israeli public is ahead of its politicians when it comes to daring and original political thinking, according to a previously undisclosed poll conducted in Israel two years ago.
The poll showed that the idea of forming a new political movement headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was acceptable to a majority of Israelis long before it was put into practice. Most respondents also thought that Sharon and Shimon Peres should form a new list to run for Knesset.
Commissioned by a social task force headed by Jewish leaders in New York, the poll was planned and conducted by two American pollsters - Zev Furst, who heads a political consultancy firm, and Douglas Schoen, who was former president Bill Clinton's pollster. Furst, who maintains close ties to Israeli politicians, served as a political adviser to Menachem Begin, Yizhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.
The pollsters, with the help of Dr. Mina Tzemach, conducted a sample telephone survey of 1,000 Israelis, including 800 veteran citizens as well as immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Arabs. In the document accompanying the poll findings dated August 2004, Furst and Schoen detailed the practical steps they feel are clearly called for in view of the responses of the majority of those polled.
As a first step, the Labor Party under Shimon Peres should join a national unity government. Second, a new political movement should be created, under the leadership of Sharon and Peres. Furthermore, Sharon and Peres should form a new Knesset list to run for Knesset.
The section titled "Strategic Recommendations" states that despite the paramount importance of security issues to Israelis, it is important that any new political movement focus on economic matters.
The pollsters recommended that for a new Israeli government to communicate optimism, its political platform must include initiatives for creating jobs and investing in research and technology. Furst told Haaretz that he and Schoen flew to Israel after the poll was completed, and presented the results and their recommendations to Peres, who passed them on to Sharon.
According to Furst, the polls clearly indicated that Israelis are extremely disappointed with the existing political establishment. He added that he has conducted clandestine polls in Israel for 25 years, at the behest of prime ministers and party leaders.
In 1997, for example, Sharon commissioned Furst to carry out a secret poll to ascertain his chances in a race against then and current Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
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