MK Benjamin Netanyahu believes that voters from the Russian-speaking community in Israel will not be motivated by socioeconomic considerations, but, as before, on political and security matters and how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu said this while speaking Wednesday to reporters from Israel's Russian-language press.
Based on this assumption, Netanyahu does not think that the detrimental effect of his reforms on the Russian-speaking community will prevent it from supporting him in the upcoming elections. He added, however, that having brought about economic recovery, he intends to increase the budgets for various sectors. These include working single mothers, of whom there is an especially high number in the Russian-speaking community.
Netanyahu also said that Russian-speaking voters need a strong leader who will not allow for concessions to the Palestinians. He believes having Natan Sharansky and MK Yuli Edelstein on his list will bring Russian speakers' votes to the Likud.
Regarding Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu referred to him as "my good friend" and said their political positions are similar.
These statements by Netanyahu, who in the past held pride of place in "the Russian street," were met with some skepticism. Several reporters who attended the press conference said that Netanyahu's appeal to Russian immigrants made use of old slogans that do not take into account the fact that the community's character has changed. Others said that Netanyahu had erred in emphasizing the similarity between Lieberman's and his positions, a comparison that could leave Russian speakers wondering why they shouldn't vote directly for the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman.
In the latest polls among Russian speakers, support for Netanyahu has plummeted to a mere 10 percent. This is in contrast to his standing two years ago, when a third considered him the preferred candidate for prime minister.
Meanwhile, the group of Russian-speaking intellectuals who organized this week in support of Lieberman, posted a manifesto on Russian-language Web sites. Describing itself as "Israel's true spiritual elite," the group claimed in its declaration that rallying around Lieberman is the only way to save Israel "from the mire of the Levant."
Over at the Labor Party, Chairman Amir Peretz yesterday appointed Sofia Mor, a member of the Ariel city council, to head his campaign aimed at immigrants.
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