Poll: Yachimovich-led Labor Party Would Beat Kadima

Kadima is bleeding Knesset seats not only to Labor, but also to Meretz, which was in no way hurt by Yachimovich's election.

The Shelly Yachimovich Effect is shaking up Israeli politics: For the first time in years, Labor has made a comeback to return as the second-largest party after the Likud - but for now, only in the polls.

Five days after the dust has settled on the elections for the head of the Labor party, the Likud is continuing to steal seats from Kadima, and has now passed Kadima in numbers.

Kadima is bleeding Knesset seats not only to Labor, but also to Meretz, which was in no way hurt by Yachimovich's election. In fact, a survey by Haaretz shows Meretz gaining two Knesset seats after the Labor vote.

Yachimovich seems to be on her way to keeping the promise she made to voters on the night she was elected to transform Labor into a party larger than Kadima. The real question is how much longer she will be able to keep that momentum. After Kadima holds its own primaries for its leadership, and the party gets all the related media attention, will the voters who are now fleeing Kadima return?

The Haaretz-Dialog poll - conducted on Sunday under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University - shows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu significantly improved his public standing after his speech last week at the United Nations in New York. Netanyahu's approval rating, which plunged dramatically in the shadow of the summer's social protest movements, rose by the time the survey was conducted, two days after his UN appearance.

Netanyahu has once again proved that all he needs is a good speech to pick him up in the polls - another example is his speech in May in front of the U.S. Congress.

The poll found that the electoral drama between Kadima and Labor is still concentrated only among center-left voters, where nothing much is new. The Likud-ultra-Orthodox-right-wing bloc maintained its solid and secure position in Sunday's poll, with 66 Knesset seats, compared to 54 seats for the center-left-Arab bloc.

There are two reasons for the right-wing's continued strength: The Likud is more or less maintaining its status in the present Knesset. But Yisrael Beiteinu has picked up three seats, according to the survey. Sunday's poll show Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima with the same number of Knesset seats - 18.

The poll reflects a major change in the makeup of the Knesset: Instead of the usual two large parties, there will now be four medium-to-large parties with not much difference between them.

Netanyahu, who celebrates two-and-a-half years of stable government this week, can form a government after the next elections, if the present scenario holds. But he will have a hard time functioning as prime minister, as he will be open to pressure and coercion.