Haaretz poll: 57% of Israelis support plan to talk to Hamas
Labor crashing as right continues to gain support; survey finds some seven Knesset seats shifted to right.
In a few words, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was able to encapsulate the political situation in Israel: "There is no more peace camp." New survey numbers appear to prove him right.
Nine months after the elections, the left has evaporated and the right has only grown stronger, probably stronger than ever. The Labor Party and its leadership continue to sink lower and lower, but the general public is actually exhibiting intellectual flexibility and political moderation: the majority, including most of the Likud voters, support negotiations with Hamas, if it relinquishes terrorism and recognizes Israel.
These are the main conclusion for a special survey carried out during the past days on behalf of Haaretz and Dialog, under the guidance of Professor Camil Fuchs of the Department of Statistics at Tel Aviv University.
The survey shows the impressive rising strength of the right and a serious shrinking of the center and the left. The balance in the current Knesset stands at 65 seats for the right and 55 for the center and the left parties, but if elections were held today , the current survey suggests that the right would garner 72 seats to 48 for the center and left.
During the nine months since the elections, the equivalent of seven seats in the Knesset have moved to the right from the left-center. Kadima is retaining its strength, but Labor is crashing and it is on its way to disappearing from the political scene.
The flow of power is as follows: Labor is losing seats to Kadima, which is losing seats to Likud, which is sending seats further to the right. But Likud is also increasing its strength by some 20 percent, which counts for six seats in parliament, and it has held on to those numbers, since the election.
We may be in the midst of a slow-burn "big bang." On the eve of elections in 2006, after Ariel Sharon left Likud and set up Kadima, the right in the Knesset constituted 50 MKs and the center-left 70 MKs. Now, less than four days later, upheaval.
The attitude of Israelis to Hamas, a terrorist organization that still holds Gilad Shalit, is quite pragmatic. It turns out that the majority of the public - 57% - supports the view of MK Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, who published a plan earlier this week, in which he called for dialogue with Hamas under certain conditions. Inside Kadima the idea has tremendous support by some 72 percent of the party's voters.
But even 53 percent of Likud supporters back the idea. The left is breaking apart and Likud is moving to the center. It seems that Mofaz knew that he was marching on solid political ground when he included this radical article in his plan.
The Haaretz survey was carried out toward the end of Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week. The lessons the Prime Minister experienced at the hands of the White House left no scars in the hearts of the average Israeli. The vast majority of those asked said that the White House's attitude toward Netanyahu was "reasonable." Just a quarter of those asked claimed that the attitude of the White House toward Netanyahu was humiliating.
There are two possible ways of interpreting this: either that the emotional way with which the politicians and the media received the fact that Netanyahu went to the White House late in the evening in a van does not affect the general public, or that the public believes that Netanyahu deserves what he got.
The former is probably correct: The emotional discussion over the circumstances of the meeting between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama stayed in the political-media world's court and the street did not form it's opinions apart from that.
In general, the results of the survey are favorable to Netanyahu. A great majority blames Mahmoud Abbas for the impasse in the peace process with the Palestinians. The overall level of satisfaction from Netanyahu continues to be positive, as it was five months ago, after 100 days in government.
Also with regards to his suitability to the post of prime minister, he leads Tzipi Livni, who is second, by a significant margin: 43 percent for Netanyahu and 27 percent for Livni.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman continues to be seen negatively; also unpopular is Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The average Israeli is angry and dissatisfied with Labor and its leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Not long ago, Barak was the most popular minister in the government by a substantial margin. Netanyahu has now surpassed him.
Since the last survey, held in mid-June, Barak lost 20 points in popular support. In June, 29 percent were dissatisfied with Barak's conduct and now that has deteriorated to 44 percent.
What happened? While Israel's security situation has not worsened, the affair of the expensive hotel suite in Paris struck a mortal blow to his image, to the point where the public does not differentiate any longer between his persona and function.
Very few believe Barak is suitable to be prime minister (5 percent) compared to 10 percent who think Lieberman can do the job.
Labor continues to crash, and has never before experienced such a nadir in surveys. In June the Haaretz survey had showed it could pull 10 seats.