If elections were held today, the right-wing camp would garner 61 Knesset seats while 58 would go to the center-left. The numbers are close, but the political difference between the blocs is much greater, and favors the right as of now, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted last night.
The poll, held under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University's statistics department, shows that 30 percent of Labor supporters in 2006 - a number representing about six Knesset seats - said they would vote for Kadima. Meanwhile, 20 percent of Kadima voters in 2006 - again, worth about six seats - said they would return "home" to Likud.
Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu would find himself in the ideal position of being able to easily form a number of alternative governments: with Kadima, Labor and the ultra-Orthodox; with Kadima, the ultra-Orthodox and the right; or with Labor, the ultra-Orthodox and the right.
Although Tzipi Livni would win an equal number of seats, she would be in a far inferior position: The center-left camp includes 11 Arab MKs and two from the Green Party, which might not pass the minimum threshold to get into the Knesset.
The poll shows that currently, at the outset of the campaign, Kadima and Likud, and the two large parliamentary blocs, are neck-and-neck. Unexpected events could move a few seats from bloc to bloc, and then the whole picture could change. If the center-left bloc garners the 61 votes, it could thwart Netanyahu's efforts to form a government, but the government that Livni would form would have to bring in a right-wing element or two, which will make it difficult for her to make diplomatic moves.
Likud gains from right
The poll predicts that Likud would receive additional seats from right-wing parties Shas and the National Union, which had a weak showing in the survey. Quite a few Likud voters in the upcoming elections are those who did not vote in 2006, a number that translates into about seven seats.
While Netanyahu and the right are beginning their battle from a very comfortable position, Labor and its leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are in the midst of a catastrophe. According to the poll, Labor and Shas are tied for the position of fourth-largest party in the next Knesset, after Kadima (31), Likud (31) and Israel Beiteinu (11).
Barak and Labor need no less than a political miracle to recover and extricate themselves from this predicament. However, Barak performs excellently in political campaigns, as he showed twice, in the 1999 campaign against Netanyahu and the 2007 primaries against Ami Ayalon, both times starting from an inferior position.
Those surveyed gave Barak poor marks on various issues involving suitability for the premiership, except on the question of his ability to handle Israel's security problems. In answer to the question "Who in your opinion is more able to deal with Israel's security problems, particularly the Iranian nuclear threat?" Netanyahu got 33 percent of the vote, Barak 26 percent and Livni only 14 percent.
The full survey will be published in Week's End tomorrow.
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