Noam Shalit - 20.10.11
Noam Shalit, father of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, speaking at a press conference on Oct. 20, 2011. Photo by Abdala Shama
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A day after Yair Lapid commanded the headlines, it was Shelly Yachimovich's turn on Monday to reveal a hidden ace. There's no telling how long she's had Noam Shalit up her sleeve, but the Labor Party boss definitely played him well. Shalit shoved Lapid off the headlines for a full 12 hours, putting Labor and its head back in the media spotlight.

Shalit is not just another celebrity. He is well liked; he evokes warm emotions and a sense of solidarity. Shalit led a marvelous public campaign that the entire country joined and has a son the whole country is desperate to embrace. What else does he have? Time will tell, but it's already clear that we misread him.

Shalit is not all that shy, and being in the spotlight does not cause him indescribable pain. We thought he would want only peace and quiet after Gilad's return, but on Monday we learned that he has other plans, ones that don't involve staying at home and tending his garden.

Yachimovich won the battle for the headlines on Monday, but it's too early to pop the Champagne: According to the results of the most recent Dialog poll, supervised by Prof. Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University and broadcast on Channel 10 news last night, Yachimovich lost around 10 virtual Knesset seats in the four months since she won the party primary. September's poll gave Labor more than 20 seats, but if the election were held today it would only win 12 - nearly identical to the party's results in the 2009 election, under the leadership of Ehud Barak.

The Dialog poll had Lapid's new party taking half of Kadima's seats away, leaving it with just 14 MKs. Lapid, the new star in the sky, would instantly become head of the second largest party in the Knesset, with 16 seats. Fantastic results. The question is what happens six or 12 months from now. Will the "Lapid effect" fizzle out as quickly as the "Yachimovich effect," or will Lapid maintain his momentum all the way to the ballot box? History suggests that the veteran newsman's mission will be difficult, not to say impossible.

The Dialog poll gives Likud 30 Knesset seats, leaving its rivals in the dust. The center-left bloc, which Lapid belongs to, remains in the minority with 56 MKs compared with 64 for the right-Haredi-religious bloc. According to this projection, Benjamin Netanyahu will stay on as prime minister. He will have to pick which of the three "boutique" parties - Kadima, Labor or Lapid - he wants in his coalition. Netanyahu will need one of the three, perhaps two.

Anyone who saw Lapid as the left's great hope has seen that hope dashed: He divides the left and in effect guarantees another term for Netanyahu. Kadima head Tzipi Livni, whose position is much worse, could only confirm this on Monday in a Channel 2 interview.

Now it's Livni's turn to call a primary and get Kadima moving, to practice at home what she preaches for Netanyahu to do with his foreign policy: to lead, to initiate.

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