Kadima Concerned About Drop in Polls

Senior Kadima officials expressed concern last night over the party's continued slide in public opinion polls, as illustrated by the latest Haaretz-Channel 10 survey and internal polls conducted by Kadima itself.

Kadima lost another two Knesset seats over the past week, and the party is now tipped to win just 37 spots.

According to the most recent poll, Labor is "stagnant" at 19 seats, for the third straight week, while the Likud gained one to move up to 15.

Likud officials are hoping that last night's decision by the party's central committee to hold primaries to select its Knesset slate will bring the party more seats in the coming weeks.

Likud Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu last night expressed satisfaction with the committee's decision to support his proposal. "The Likud is once again becoming the most democratic and cleanest party in Israel," he said.

Kadima's biggest problem, senior party officials said last night, was that "[Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert isn't [Ariel] Sharon. He isn't perceived as Mr. Security; he looks a lot weaker than Arik, and we feel that the security problems are eating away at us, particular to the benefit of the right."

The officials added that recent publications regarding Olmert's real-estate deals did not help, and that over the coming week, Kadima "will have to come up with appropriate responses."

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss ruled yesterday that there was nothing improper about Olmert's sale-rental deal on his Jerusalem apartment. Lindenstrauss said that while the $2,250 monthly rent that the Olmerts are paying to live in the apartment appeared relatively low, it was not unreasonable.

"Every Tom, Dick and Harry feels he can say whatever he wants, and there is someone who buys it," Olmert said yesterday after the release of the state comptroller's findings. "They should at least apologize. After all, the state comptroller has already ruled out anything improper. I'm calling on them to apologize." Olmert was speaking in Rishon Letzion at a convention of local authority leaders who have expressed support for Kadima. Prior to the convention, Olmert met with his advisers to discuss the comptroller's report, with talk focusing on attacks he has come under in recent weeks and how to combat them.

Some Kadima officials said that the party's fall in the polls could be due to the Russian vote, which is leaving but has yet to move to other parties.