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Opinion polls released on Monday showed that if the Labor primaries were held now, Barak and Ayalon would be in a close race for the party chairmanship, with Peretz trailing badly and in danger of defeat at the hands of all prospective rivals.

According to a Haaretz survey, conducted by the Dialog polling company, the "new" Labor Party, about half of whose members have changed since the last membership drive, is turning its back on Peretz, while the erstwhile outsider Barak is enjoying an impressive comeback, with 25 percent of the vote.

Ayalon is close behind with 23 percent. Peretz is next, with 19 percent, followed by Ophir Pines-Paz with 15 percent and Danny Yatom with 5 percent.

A parallel poll in Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper showed Ayalon in a narrow lead, with 28 percent of the vote, versus 26 percent for Barak, and 19 for Peretz.

A Maariv daily survey gave Barak 31 percent of the vote, Ayalon 27, Pines-Paz 19 and Peretz only 13.

The Haaretz poll suggests that the big winner is a relative political newcomer, Ayalon, who at least at this point seems to have the greatest chance of taking the party leadership.

In the second round, in which only two candidates can participate, Ayalon beats Barak, Barak beats Peretz, and Ayalon crushes Peretz. Pines-Paz also wins easily against Peretz according to the survey, conducted among 550 Labor members.

If Peretz did make it to the second round, he would be roundly defeated by anyone who ran against him: Ehud Barak, Ami Ayalon or Ophir Pines-Paz, according to the survey, supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs of the Statistics Department of Tel Aviv University.

Even if Peretz resigned as defense minister, 62 percent said they would still not vote for him, although 15 percent said the move would increase the chance they would vote for him.

The poll showed that security concerns are clearly back at the front of the minds of Labor voters, with a focus either on Barak or Ayalon. The "social" era in the party under Peretz is about to end; some say it never got started.

According to the survey, Ayalon will be the beneficiary of the departure from the race of Pines-Paz, Yatom or Peretz. Most of their voters will throw him their support. Antagonistic feeling toward Barak in the party still seems very strong, although Barak seems a suitable candidate for defense minister to 41 percent of Labor members, and Ayalon trails behind on this question with 27 percent. Peretz garnered only 11 percent of the vote for the post he now holds.

One clear conclusion from the survey is that the big membership drive Peretz's supporters conducted did him no good. Barak, in contrast, through his supporters Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Shalom Simhon, signed up a large number of members who will also vote for him. Barak's strategy to conduct a low-profile campaign has paid off. His message: Barak has learned from his mistakes. Forty-two percent of Labor members believe him; 47 percent do not.

Another interesting finding: a third of Labor's members would like to see their party unite with Kadima ahead of the next elections, although 54 percent oppose this move.