The violent evacuation of the illegal West Bank settlement of Amona and the transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority have taken a small toll on Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party, which netted three fewer seats in this week's Haaretz-Channel 10 poll than they received the week before.
The drop still leaves Kadima with 40 seats, while Likud scored an extra two seats, bringing it to 15, and Labor remained stable at 21 seats, according to the survey conducted by the Dialog polling company Tuesday night, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs.
The National Religious Party fell beneath the electoral threshold with only two seats, making a merger with National Union essential for them. Meretz-Yahad won an extra seat, giving it a total of five. Neither Shinui nor the breakaway Hetz Party, led by former Shinui minister Avraham Poraz, are even approaching the electoral threshold to make it into the 17th Knesset. The same goes for experimental parties such as Tafnit or the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party.
Six percent of respondents said they were not planning to vote, and 13 percent were undecided. That translates into about 20 floating seats. The big question is whether the weakening of Kadima after weeks of retaining its status - if not accumulating more power - is a temporary blip or the start of a trend. In either case, this survey clearly shows why it has lost seats: The public did not like the government decision to transfer tax money to the Palestinian Authority - 59 percent of the respondents opposed the move, while 35 percent supported it.
The evacuation of Amona led 9 percent of respondents to change their vote, mostly to the Likud. This switch is what gave the Likud two more seats than it received in the previous poll.
Regardless of whether Kadima will continue to lose votes, this week's decrease will at least bring hope to Likud and Labor, which are fighting for second place, that all is not lost. The survey also shows significant public support for the establishment of an inquiry committee to investigate the Amona evacuation, which the right wing had demanded. (The poll was conducted before yesterday's Knesset decision to establish the parliamentary inquiry committee.)
The survey polled respondents on their attitude toward Olmert, and came away with mixed replies. The weekly score Olmert received from the public was significantly lower than the one he received the previous week, 5.34 compared with 6.52. Even Kadima supporters were less satisfied this week, giving Olmert a 7.4, down from an 8.
On the other hand, Olmert is still in the lead when it comes to the question of prime ministerial suitability, considered a critical issues in any election season - Olmert is 5 percentage points ahead of Likud chairman and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thirty-two percent of respondents consider Olmert to be suitable for the premiership, while Netanyahu received 27 percent of the vote, and Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz 15 percent.
The mixed results show that the immunity from bad tidings that Olmert enjoyed over the last month, as the result of his being the one to continue in Ariel Sharon's path, is beginning to expire. It was also this past week that Olmert really began taking actions of his own, such as evacuating Amona and transferring the tax funds. And it was also the first week in which Likud and Labor began attacking Olmert, each from a different angle. The poll shows that most of the public is not impressed by either of the two party's campaigns.
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