If Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak is looking for another excuse not to leave the government after the publication of the Winograd Committee's final report - just in case "responsibility, the good of the country, developments in Iran, Gaza and Syria" are not enough - then here is another: A large majority of Labor Party supporters, 61 percent, feel he should remain defense minister even if the report's conclusions are as serious as those of the interim report.
According to a new Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted Tuesday in advance of the Winograd Committee's final report, due at the end of January, only a quarter of Labor supporters think Barak should quit.
Such opinions may play a decisive role in the Labor leader's post-publication decision: If a majority of Barak's supporters think he should stay, then he would not be hurt politically if he decides not to quit, despite such a decision being viewed by some as a breach of promise. Of course, public opinion could change as a result of the release of the final report on the Second Lebanon War.
The poll, supervised by Professor Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, also found, possibly surprisingly, that among the general public there is not widespread support for Barak to leave the defense portfolio and the cabinet: 46 percent of those questioned wanted Barak to leave and 40 percent said no.
The poll surveyed 492 respondents and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.
As expected, a clear majority of Kadima supporters, 54 percent to 43 percent, want Barak to stay. But also a large majority of Yisrael Beiteinu supporters, as well as those of Arcadi Gaydamak's new party, want to see Barak remain in the government.
Even a third of Likud supporters, who supposedly understand that a Barak resignation would topple Olmert's government, want him to remain, 35 percent to 58 percent.
As to Ehud Olmert's public standing, the survey of course found his position to be worse; but Olmert still has a bit of room for optimism. Only a quarter of those polled think he should remain as prime minister, while a third want to see a new government but with the same Knesset; and 40 percent of the public want new, early elections.
But Olmert can take some comfort in his enormous improvement among Kadima supporters: 63 percent of whom said that as far as they are concerned, Olmert can keep his job in the Prime Minister's Office. Three months ago, only 33 percent of Kadima supporters thought so. In other words, in a short period Olmert has managed to double his standing with his party's supporters.
Another interesting, possibly contradictory result from the poll shows that 42 percent of Gaydamak's supporters do not share Gaydamak's own dissatisfaction with Olmert and want the prime minister to remain in office. Only Kadima supporters back Olmert more.
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